India extends credit to Malawi, beefs up economic ties

New Delhi, Nov 3 (IANS) India Wednesday extended a $100 million Line of Credit to Malawi and a grant of $5 million to support the southern African nation’s economic development, especially its small and medium enterprises, as the two countries moved to strengthen cooperation in the fields of agriculture, mineral resources and infrastructure.

‘This morning our Prime Minister announced a $100 million line of credit to Malawi, a grant of $5 million to support Malawi’s development and SME incubator,’ Minister of State for IT and Communications Sachin Pilot said.

Visiting Malawian President Bingu Wa Mutharika held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday and discussed deepening of bilateral cooperation, especially in the energy and agriculture sectors.

India is seeking a foothold in exploitation of Malawi’s mineral resources like uranium and coal. Malawi has discovered huge deposits of uranium and wants to work with India to explore more uranium sites.

Later in the day, addressing an interactive session on ‘India and Malawi: Partners for Progress’ organised by India’s industry chambers, President Mutharika invited India’s business community to invest in Malawi.

‘I warmly invite you to come and do business in Malawi. You and your investments will be safe and secure in our country.’

Asserting that ‘Malawi is not a poor country,’ he said: ‘The country has great resources that need to be tapped.’

President Mutharika also said he was ‘sure’ India and Malawi will exceed the two-way trade target of $300 million within three years. India-Malawi bilateral trade at present is $185 million.

‘We have agreed with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh this morning to increase trade to $300 million in the next two to three years. I am sure we will exceed that target.’

Pilot in his address also announced that the Indian mission in the Malawian capital Lilongwe, which was closed down in 1993, would be reopened.

Despite the closure, there had been no breakdown in the relationship. High level exchanges had taken place over the years. Vice President Hamid Ansari was the last high-level dignitary to visit Malawi this January.

Currently, Malawi is heading the African Union. Pilot thanked Mutharika for supporting India to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Malawi has also voiced its support to India’s bid for a permanent seat in the Council.

Malawian Trade and Industry Minister Eunice Kazembe said Malawi and India were negotiating an Investment and Protection Agreement for investors to explore business opportunities in Malawi.

‘The current trade and Foreign Direct Investments are low and in a situation which needs to be corrected,’ she added.

President Mutharika also met his Indian counterpart Pratibha Devisingh Patil and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Mutharika will be conferred the Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) at a special convocation by Delhi University Thursday.

An alumnus of Delhi University, Mutharika completed his bachelor’s degree from Shri Ram College of Commerce and masters from the Delhi School of Economics.

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