Script: Dr Nivedita Ray, Director Research, Indian Council of World Affairs
India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar was on a three-day official visit to the Republic of Kenya. As a maritime neighbour and a regional economic powerhouse, Kenya assumes immense strategic significance for India. The External Affairs Minister’s visit to this East African country during the challenging time of the Pandemic, only underscores the importance that India places on strengthening ties with this crucial East African neighbour.
The visit was significant in enhancing ties in the bilateral and global context, given that Kenya and India are both currently serving in the United Nation Security Council.
During his three day visit, the highlight was the co-chairing of the 3rd meeting of the India-Kenya Joint Commission by the External Affairs Minister and his Kenyan counterpart Foreign Minister Rachelle Omamo. Both sides had very productive discussions on all aspects of the bilateral relationship and had a detailed exchange on regional and global issues. A mutual desire was expressed to expand bilateral cooperation under the Kenya-India Joint Commission Framework.
Dr. Jaishankar interacted with several ministers of Kenya including the minister for Defence, Trade and Industry, ICT, Energy, Treasury and Health Minister in a Ministerial Roundtable to review the development cooperation in various sectors. Both sides discussed building a comprehensive partnership and explored further opportunities in the areas of Health, Environment, ICT, Tourism, Higher Education, Automotive, Defence and Security.
As the Covid 19 Pandemic remains the greatest challenge to health security, enhancing cooperation in health and education sectors remained high on the agenda. In the health sector, the discussions on establishing Joint Ventures in pharmaceutical manufacturing was welcomed, as it would contribute to the increasing provision of affordable drugs. Both sides called for joint efforts to combat the disease as well as consolidate economic collaboration during the pandemic and post-Covid-19 period. They also emphasized the need for equitable and affordable access to vaccines and ensuring treatment for all the health sector.
On education collaboration, India’s continued support through the provision of scholarships, Capacity building courses and infrastructure development was acknowledged by the Kenyan side. India’s commitment to consider increasing the number of scholarship offered to Kenya based on national priorities was also appreciated during the Ministerial interactions.
Indian universities have hosted many young Kenyans who have risen to important positions in various fields. Every year, the Government of India offers more than 400 scholarships to Kenyans. Even during the pandemic, the relationship continued virtually through activities like the e-ITEC course.
A major highlight of the visit was Dr. Jaishankar’s call on President Uhuru Kenyatta. He handed over a letter from Prime Minister Modi. They discussed expanding bilateral ties. The Minister assured President Kenyatta that India will pay greater focus on deepening people to people and business to business ties and that India is committed to build a partnership to realise Kenya’s Big Four priorities on Manufacturing, Affordable Housing, Universal Health and Food Security. Such kind of partnership that promotes the development and build capacities only reflects the strong commitment to South-South Cooperation.
Dr.Jaishankar inaugurated the newly renovated Mahatma Gandhi memorial graduate Library at the University of Nairobi. It is noteworthy that the renovation was undertaken through the financial grant support of US$ 1 million by the Indian Government. In his address, the External Affairs Minister emphasized that the memory of the Mahatma underlines India’s strong solidarity with Africa.
The Minister had a productive online discussion with the strong thriving Indian-origin community, which acts as an important bridge between the two countries.
Besides bilateral issues, both sides reflected on global and regional issues, including the security situation in the Indo-Pacific and the Horn of Africa regions India and Kenya are satisfied with their ongoing collaboration in the United Nations Security Council and are committed to a rules-based multilateral system, wherein the United Nations plays an important role in addressing global challenges.
The External Affairs Minister’s visit to Kenya was overall successful for consolidating the existing multifaceted ties and exploring new emerging areas of cooperation.