India, Sierra Leone sign 6 pacts, take bilateral ties to new level

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Vice President Venkaiah Naidu with Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone

New Delhi (NVI): India and Sierra Leone HAVE signed six  agreements to expand bilateral relations in various fields and also agreed to push for UNSC reforms so that one-third of mankind residing in Africa and India occupy their rightful place in decision making bodies of the UN.

The agreements were signed between Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu who was visiting Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. This was his first ever visit Sierra Leone as part the second and last leg of his tour to African nations.

India has also decided to establish a High Commission in Sierra Leone, even as both the countries have agreed to enhance cooperation in agriculture, food processing, Information Technology, infrastructure development and capacity building, an official statement said.

The Vice President said that India has a special relationship with Sierra Leone and the friendly ties between the two countries are based on common values and shared vision. He recalled that India was among the first countries to contribute to the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) with the deployment of 4000 strong Indian Military contingent.

Declaring that India’s developmental assistance to Sierra Leone so far aggregated to US$ 217.5 million for various sectors including agriculture, energy, water resources and telecommunication, Naidu announced a Line of Credit to the tune of US$ 30 million for Irrigation development in Tomabum to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production. An agreement was also signed with the EXIM Bank of India in this regard.

He said that decision was taken to reactivate the US $15 million Line of Credit for potable water project.  The Vice President also informed President Bio that India would be happy to offer line of credit for construction of a new President’s Office complex in Freetown.

Highlighting the growing people-to-people linkages between the two countries, Naidu said that India has extended e-Visa facility to Sierra Leone nationals for ease of mobility and both sides are also negotiating a visa waiver agreement for holders of diplomatic and official passports.

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The Vice President expressed his happiness that Sierra Leone has agreed to participate in the e-VBAB project. 

Naidu also expressed satisfaction at the cooperation between India and Sierra Leone in the field of capacity building, especially under India’s flagship ITEC program.

“One of the MoUs pertained to Sierra Leone participating in India’s Pan-African tele-Education, tele-Medicine initiatives, e-VidyaBharati and e-Arogya Bharati. “India will soon initiate steps to set up a Centre of Excellence in IT in Sierra Leone. India will also be dispatching 1000 MTs of rice to Sierra Leone, as a goodwill gesture, in the coming months,” the Vice President said.

An agreement was also signed to initiate a cultural exchange program between the governments of India and Sierra Leone for the years 2019-23. A protocol for consultation and a MoU between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, government of Sierra Leone and the Foreign Services Institute, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India was also signed.

The Vice President expressed his happiness on Sierra Leone joining the International Solar Alliance in which India is playing a leading role to enable rapid deployment of solar energy globally and to facilitate the transfer of technology.

Shri Naidu reiterated India’s offer to conduct a “Jaipur Foot” camp in Sierra Leone under the “India for Humanity” initiative for fitting of artificial prosthetic limbs for the disabled. This is an initiative undertaken in the context of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. He also thanked President Bio for releasing a postage stamp on Mahatma Gandhi.  

(sb)

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