Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of Zambia visited India, at the invitation of the President Mr. Ram Nath Kovind. This was the first visit at the level of Head of State from Zambia after formation of the new Government and the first-ever State visit of President Lungu to India. The last time a Zambian President paid a State visit to India was 16 years ago when Levy Mwanawasa visited in April 2003.
This visit was significant in the context of India’s Africa outreach policy, which has seen 32 visits by Indian political leaders to African countries and 35 visits by African leaders to India, following the 3rd India Africa Forum Summit process. Besides, as a reciprocal visit, it took place about 16 months after President Ram Nath Kovind’s State Visit to Zambia, in April, 2018. The visit was an important opportunity to review the progress of the entire spectrum of bilateral relations.
The highlights of the Zambian President’s visit were a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan, visit to Rajghat, meeting with the President; and delegation level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr. Lungu also participated in an India- Zambia Business Forum meeting in New Delhi.
The Zambian President and Prime Minster Modi, during the delegation level talks had useful discussion on strengthening cooperation in areas of defence, security, mineral resources, trade and investment, infrastructure, energy, health, capacity building, and culture, as well as issues relating to regional and global interest. They reviewed the status of the agreements signed and decisions reached during the President Kovind’s visit to Zambia in April 2018 and expressed satisfaction over the progress made. President Lungu acknowledged the receipt of donation of medicines and medical equipment worth $3 million and the donation of $100,000 to the Mahatma Gandhi Primary School, which were announced during the visit of the Indian President last year.
On development partnership, President Lungu appreciated India’s support for Zambia’s developmental programmes; particularly its contribution to the capacity building of the Defence Forces. He expressed happiness at the signing of the MoU on Defence cooperation as it paved the way for the enhancement of cooperation in this sector, wherein Indian military and air-force training teams will be deployed in Zambia to assist in enhancing the capabilities of the armed forces of that country,
The other important agreements/MoUs signed were with regard to cooperation the field of Geology and Mineral Resources, cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine, MoU on Art & Culture; MoU between the Foreign Service Institute of India and Zambian Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies; Memorandum of Mutual Understanding and Cooperation in the field of Elections between the Election Commission of India and the Electoral Commission of Zambia, and an MoU for Zambia’s participation in tele-education, telemedicine with the signing of e-VBAB Network Project.
Some important announcements were made with regard to solar power and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) by India, which were welcomed with gratitude by President Lugu. These include providing support to set up an a SME Incubation Centre to promote development of Small and Medium enterprises; grants for 100 Solar Irrigation pumps for boosting agriculture in Zambia; 5 Fire tenders for deployment at Zambia Air force Bases; and grant of 1000 MT of rice and 100 MT of milk powder as humanitarian assistance. These announcements only reflects of India’s consistent and continued commitment to Zambia’s development and growth.
Trade and investment relations are an important component of bilateral cooperation. Both leaders stressed on enhancing and diversifying the trade relations. The bilateral trade has grown gradually with total trade pegged at US$ 830 million in 2018-19 but dominated mainly by exports from Zambia. There has been a steady inflow of Indian private investment into Zambia, in sectors such as mining, infrastructure, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals and of late into agriculture also. This Zambian President’s visit has certainly added the much needed impetus to the existing strong bilateral relationship between India and Zambia.
Script: Dr. Nivedita Ray, Strategic Analyst on Africa