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Valedictory Address at International Conference on Africa and Energy Security: Global Issues, Local Responses

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  • Hon'ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Shri Anand Sharma
    June 24, 2008

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is a matter of great privilege to be here before this august gathering today to share my thoughts on an issue of significant global importance.

    India's engagement with Africa is historical and we have civilisational links. We were at forefront of liberation struggles in Africa even while we struggled for our own independence. In the 60s and 70s we have held in admiration African stalwarts like Nkrumah, Nasser and Nyerere. Mahatma Gandhi is a shared national hero and icon for India and South Africa. We provided moral, material and humanitarian assistance in Namibia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The principles of Afro-Asian solidarity were articulated way back in the Bandung Conference in 1955 by our Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and the African leadership, which later became the bedrock of the Non-aligned Movement.

    The 21st century world is an increasingly globalised and interdependent world. The last decade has thrown up major global challenges which are trans-national in character and require a concerted global response for effective resolution. Amongst the most pressing contemporary challenges faced by all of us is the trinity of food security, energy security and climate change. These are intertwined and our responses to each of them have a bearing on the other.

    As nations witness rapid economic growth, the demands on energy grow exponentially. While the demand for energy has a global spread, the availability of energy resources is highly skewed. The industrial revolution had increased the dependence of the world on the use of coal which was later supplemented by oil and gas. In our rapid pursuit of development, we overlooked the fact that these resources are non-replenishable and scarce. Mindless and continuous exploitation of these resources has created a situation where the demand and supply gap has widened beyond imagination. Today we are confronted with a situation where the crude oil prices are threatening to touch US$ 150 a barrel, which is a five-fold increase in less than 4 years. The recent meet of the OPEC countries in Jeddah is a testimony to the gravity of the crisis confronting the world. This has an adverse impact on economies across the world and is causing acute inflationary pressures and is impeding growth.

    The quest for alternatives has impelled nations to look for innovative solutions. However, it is a matter of grave concern that countries have resorted to mindless diversion of cereals and edibles for production of bio-fuels. Never before in human history have we seen a situation where food is being diverted for fuel. In the recent Rome Summit it was highlighted that nearly 100 million tonnes of cereal has been diverted from human consumption to satisfy the thirst of fuel for vehicles. There cannot be a bigger tragedy for the 21st century world where millions are suffering from hunger and malnutrition that we have resorted to such myopic and unsustainable policies.

    We also need to place our policy regime of energy security in the larger perspective of environmental sustainability. It is now borne out by strong empirical evidence that the unsustainable consumption patterns followed by the developed nations have created the colossal challenge of climate change. The challenge is real and warrants an immediate response. So while all of us in the developing world chart our respective courses for rapid economic growth, we need to be mindful of its impact on environment.

    Africa has the gift of nature and is endowed with huge mineral reserves and unparallel bio-diversity. A continent of 900 million which has 60 per cent of world diamonds, 40 per cent of phosphate, 99 per cent chromium and 85 per cent platinum is truly a rich continent. It has proven oil reserves of nearly 16 million MTS and huge gas reserves. It has been projected that Africa would add 38 per cent to global oil contributing a further four million barrels of oil per day by 2010. Nigeria, Angola and Algeria have huge prospects. Apart from oil, Africa has a huge potential for LNG and it produces over 50,000 MT per year.

    Our relationship with Africa has always been imbued with a spirit of partnership and equality. We recently convened the first India-Africa Forum Summit in partnership with the African Union to institutionalize our historic linkages. The Summit adopted the Delhi Declaration which provides a blue print of a shared political vision and world view, which is guided by a commitment to deepen the process of African integration while recognizing the diversities within various regions of Africa. The framework of cooperation adopted at the Summit outlines the priority areas of future engagement which range from capacity building, agricultural infrastructure development, health and food security, energy security and technology cooperation.

    The India-Africa Hydro-carbon Conference was held in November 2007 which provided a platform of interface between Government and private sector. We seek to forge a long term developmental partnership with mutual benefit while sharing our experience, capacity and technology in the energy sector. We have always believed in building local capacities and ensuring technology transfers. India can have a robust partnership especially in the area of research and development, human resources development and managerial best practices. Indian corporates have made strategic investments in Africa and the OVL has huge presence in Sudan, Ivory Coast, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Nigeria, Nigeria-Sao Tome Principe Joint Development Area and Gabon.

    Africa provides a reliable alternative of sustained fuel supplies to a world confronted with huge shortages.

    I would like to mention that our cooperation in energy need not be confined to hydro-carbons alone. India has gained tremendous expertise over the years in developing its renewable energy program and we are the fourth largest wind energy producers in the world. We have acquired technology and capacities in solar photo voltaic, bio-fuels and hydro power. Our nuclear energy programme is totally indigenous and comparable to the best in the world. We would be happy to share our experience and technologies with our friends in Africa across the entire energy spectrum to ensure robust partnership.

    I believe that Asia and Africa are at the cusp of a renaissance and collectively we shall have a major say in the emerging world order. I am sure that our time tested ties shall be transformed into vibrant economic partnerships in the years to come.

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