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Ethiopia seeks India's financial muscle for its rail project

Addis Ababa:  Ethiopia wants $300 million more from India for an ambitious railway project that would connect it with neighbouring Djibouti, a venture that India backs as part of its "support for regional integration in Africa". India has already inked a loan agreement worth $300 million for the railway project. However, the loan from New Delhi is yet to be disbursed.

"The support to the railway is part of India's support for regional integration in Africa. This is the first time we are doing a project which covers more than one country. That is why we are going through the procedures rather carefully," said Gurjit Singh, additional secretary in India's external affairs ministry.

Singh said the $300 million disbursement will depend on how the project is implemented, which is in the hands of the Ethiopian and Djiboutian railway corporations.

"We are just facilitating and working with them on the feasibility study, and from that we will discover how our part of the implementation will come through. Once all that is settled and the project goes on stream, we see no difficulty in periodic and timely disbursements," Singh said.

The Ethiopian government plans to construct a 2,395 km national railway network, out of which 1,808 km will be completed by 2015.

"At the highest level, India has expressed a commitment to the project and whatever India can, we will try and do. But all these possibilities are based on technical discussions. So the political commitment is there, but we have to make sure the technical discussion goes through smoothly and they lead to practical implementation. That is what we are now focusing on," he said.

Ethiopia and India have seen an "exemplary" relationship in the past, according to Singh, who has also served as India's ambassador here.

With more than $700 million extended by New Delhi for rural electrification and sugar production projects since 2006, Ethiopia is the biggest recipient of India's line of credit in Africa, Singh said.

An Indian delegation was led by Singh and the Ethiopian team was headed by Arega Hailu, director general of the Asia and Oceania Affairs of the ministry of foreign affairs, at the second India-Ethiopia foreign office consultation.

It followed up on the decisions taken at the India-Africa summit last year and at bilateral meetings between Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Gurjit Singh, who has served as Indian ambassador here, had earlier visited Addis Ababa in May 2011.

The two sides discussed Jan 24 the implementation of decisions taken under the India-Africa forum Summit I & II, including the establishment of four capacity building institutions in Ethiopia. These include a vocational training centre, an IT centre, a Women's solar engineering vocational training centre and a farm science centre.

According to a statement by the Indian mission here, the two sides agreed that the next joint commission meeting will be held in 2013. Gurjit Singh also met Berhane Gebre-Christos, minister for foreign affairs, to discuss bilateral and other issues.

30 January 2012
Economic Times
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