Interview with H.E. Mr. Sailas Thangal, Ambassador of India in the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire with concurrent accreditation to Liberia and Guinea

The Indian Diaspora in the Côte d’Ivoire is small, yet significant. What has been its contribution in strengthening ties?

India’s relations with Côte d’Ivoire have been close and friendly. Indian community (NRIs & PIOs) is relatively small in Cote d’Ivoire however they are very active in their respective field. Majority of Indian businessmen/companies in Cote d’Ivoire are involved in trading but had distinguished themselves in businesses especially in Cote d’Ivoire key sectors such as in cashew, pharmaceutical and public transport. Indians who crossed the Ocean to live and work in the Cote d’Ivoire have strengthened the relationship between our two countries. The visit of Hon’ble Pranab Mukherjee, President of India in June 2016 gave a boost towards strengthening our ties.

Besides Indian diaspora involvement, government of India has been supporting Cote d’Ivoire in their economic development and has offered soft Lines of Credit for various infrastructures and non-infra projects/programmes. Our priority areas for economic relations with Cote d’Ivoire are to support in the sustainable development of Cote d’Ivoire including infrastructure development, capacity building, training and Human Resource Development.

What is the extent of bilateral trade between the two countries at present, and what steps are being taken to boost the trade figures?

India is the fifth largest exporter to Cote d’Ivoire and bilateral trade amounts to about USD1 billion for 2017 & 2018 with BOT in favour of India. However our investment in to Cote d’Ivoire has been very low and stood at about USD 28 million. It is important to note that currently, Cote d’Ivoire is the largest supplier of raw cashew nut beans to India. Cote d’Ivoire economy has been growing at the healthy rate of around 8.5% p.a. in last five years. It is the most dynamic and the biggest economy among francophone countries of West Africa. The rapid economic growth combined with our complimentarities of our economies have provided a huge potential for cooperation in bilateral trade and investment.

The Cote d’Ivoire government realizing, that sustainable investment from abroad is crucial for economic development, is currently undergoing economic reforms, liberalizing its policies to make investor-friendly environment.  Being a friendly partner Indian investor could participate both in infrastructure development as well as non-infra projects like skill development and capacity building and become part of the economic evolution of the country by extending their support in all forms, at all levels, in all spheres of the economic development and growth.

Mission on its effort to enhance trade and investment between India and Cote d’Ivoire have been interacting with all stake holders including cote d’Ivoire dignitaries as well as Indian business to enhance India’s investment into Cote d’Ivoire especially in key sectors of the economy. Indian Companies with manufacturing facility in Cote d’Ivoire could enjoy many benefits & incentives from the local government besides having easy market access to around 300 million plus people in ECOWAS. As part of this effort Embassy of India organized an India-Cote d’Ivoire Business Forum on 18 December 2018 which was attended by 110 Ivoriene and Indian businessmen not only from Cote d’Ivoire but also from neighbouring countries such as Ghana, Liberia, Guinea and Dubai. The event also included B2B, B2G and networking meeting amongst the businessmen.

What kind of cultural exchanges have taken place lately between India and Côte d’Ivoire?

India and Cote d’Ivoire enjoy cordial and close cultural relations, especially people to people relations despite the geographical distance. India has been contributing to the development of Human Resource Development.  Government of India offers scholarships for wide range of courses and training under different schemes such as Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, Scholarships offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). In addition, to these scholarships, many Ivoirian students also go to India to pursue their higher studies on self-financing basis. The Ivoirians who studied in India have been an important bridge of our bilateral relations.

The Embassy in Abidjan on its part has been organizing many events to promote Indian culture and way of life in Cote d’Ivoire. A Festival of India was organized in Côte d’Ivoire and concurrently accredited countries of Liberia and Guinea from 15 August 2017 – 28 January 2018. It showcased diverse Indian culture, i.e. classical and folk dances in four cities of Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan, Yammoussoukro, Grand-Bassam and Daloa), in Monrovia (Liberia) and Conakry (Guinea). The troupes perfomred various classical dances of India such as, Bharatnatyam (15-16 August 2017), Mohiniattam (22-25 September 2017), Folk Dance of Arunachal Pradesh Rinchin Droma (27-30 October 2017) and Manipuri Dance Group led by B. Sanjita Devi (26-28 January 2018).The Embassy also organized an “Indian Film Festival” on December 14-15, 2018 in Abidjan. The two days event was well attended and well apprecdiated by the local Ivoirians.

So, 2019 is a 40th glorious year of India – Côte d’Ivoire relations, what are your future plans to take the bond to the next level?

The Embassy of India in Abidjan was opened in 1979 even although diplomatic relations was established earlier. Since then our Embassy in Abidjan has been playing an important role over the years to enhance the traditionally cordial and friendly relations between India and Cote d’Ivoire.

The Embassy of India’s efforts would be to work together with Ivorians interlocutors as equal partners on the visions articulated by our leaders in trying to make our voice heard in the comity of nation while trying to redefine our common political, economic and social systems to reflect the imperatives of modernization in our own ways, and consolidate our hard-won friendship and interdependency.

Your message for the readers of Envoy Excellency?

Namaste fellow citizens of the world! It has been the ambition of this mission to foster India’s positive & friendly engagements with Cote d’Ivoire and with Africa both bilaterally and in multilateral spheres, especially in the fields of development, economic independency, democracy,  good governance, peace and international security and the promotion of human rights. This has been a fundamental focus of our foreign policy. With the cooperation and assistance from the local interlocutors and guidance from Delhi mission would continue to work for the common betterment.

The Embassy is also home away from home for our fellow citizens in this part of the world. Hence the Embassy remains open and ready to facilitate queries from any Indian citizerns about business, travel, or other opportunities to promote India’s relations and cooperation with Africa. For fellow Ivoirian nationals Indian Embassy in Abidjan welcome any query as well as participation in India’s art, culture, education and commercial activities. Embassy would also welcome any query about India and guidance from the Embassy.

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