A day before the India-Africa Forum Summit begins, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday strongly pitched for reforms in the UN Security Council (UNSC), pointing out neither India with nearly a sixth of the world’s population nor Africa, the largest continent in terms of number of countries, were on board.
Sushma Swaraj, who earlier opened an India-Africa peace park in New Delhi, also stressed the importance of India, Africa and other developing countries to cooperate closely in the two upcoming global meets – the climate change conference in Paris and the WTO meeting in Kenya.
Noting the UN continued to be a “representative of the world order of 1945”, she said: “It is inconceivable that the Security Council today does not have any permanent representation from Africa, which is the largest continent.”
Addressing the third India-Africa Editors’ Forum meeting in New Delhi, she said it was incomprehensible that India, which represents almost one-sixth of the world’s population and has all credentials to be a permanent member of the Security Council, was still out of it.
“We all need to work together to remove this anomaly and the media has an important role in this,” she said.
Ahead of the COP 21 or Conference of Parties on Climate Change and the 10th World Trade Organisation ministerial meet, Sushma Swaraj said: “In both these meetings also, India and Africa and other developing countries will have to work hand in hand to ensure that our development agenda is not affected.”
She said the third edition of the summit was an epoch-making engagement in the journey of strengthening South-South cooperation to promote world peace and prosperity, while accounting for Africa’s own aspirations for growth of pan-African institutions.
“Over the next four days, at the highest political levels, we will endeavour not just to give a new thrust to our age-old partnership but also to develop a new paradigm of cooperation focusing on key areas such as infrastructure, agriculture, energy, innovation and health,” she said.
Sushma Swaraj said that the exercise of strengthening relations between African and Indian news media must be placed on the bedrock of grassroots empowerment.
“We need new initiatives in the information, communication, media and entertainment sectors. These initiatives should be able to unleash the voices of two of the youngest regions in the world – India and Africa – and harness the power of digital, social and new media platforms to bring about a renaissance of new ideas,” she said.
“Let me emphasise that our basic approach to our relations in Africa has been one of maximising mutual benefit. We have sought to complement our needs with each other’s strengths,” she said.
Noting 2015 has been a historic year for pushing forward South-South cooperation, she said: “We celebrated the 60th anniversary of Asian-African Conference and the 10th anniversary of the new Asian-African strategic partnership at Bandung (Indonesia). We worked together in the finalisation of the post-2015 Development Agenda.”
She said 2015 marked the centenary of the return of Mahatma Gandhi to India, who many say was probably the greatest journalist of his time.
She said his first paper was launched in South Africa, where he took over the editorship of “Indian Opinion” in 1904 and published it in English, Tamil and Gujarati.
“Gandhiji looked upon journalism as a means to serve the people,” she said.
Addressing the gathering, Ethiopian Ambassador Gennet Zowide, who is dean of the African diplomatic corps, said that India and Africa were forging ahead in the fight against poverty and injustice in the post-colonial period.
“News from Africa is portrayed negatively despite the fact that Africa is on the resurgence path. Africa is growing at 5.5 percent,” she said.
Stressing India is a friend of Africa, Zowide said: “India and Africa will will discuss sustainable development in this summit. These are big agendas that we are working on.”
Earlier on Sunday, Sushma Swaraj opened an India-Africa Friendship Rose Garden on Shanti Path.
“Flowers signify love, dedication, friendship and brotherhood. So we chose to build Friendship Rose garden to symbolise India-Africa friendship which in coming years is going to blossom like the flowers of this garden,” she said.