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PM offers duty free tariff for poor nations

Last updated on: April 08, 2008 13:26 IST

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh announced on Tuesday duty free tariff preference scheme for least developed countries.

Amid appaluse from the delegates of the first Indo-African Forum in New Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan, the prime minister made this announcement.

Thirty four out of 50 beneficiary states of least developed countries belong to Africa, Singh said.

"I am delighted and honoured to have this unique opportunity to welcome this distinguished galaxy of leaders from Africa for the first India-Africa Forum Summit. Excellencies, your presence here today marks the start of a new chapter in the long history of civilisational contacts, friendship and cooperation between India and Africa.

"Africa is our mother continent. The dynamics of geology may have led our lands to drift apart, but history, culture and the processes of post-colonial development have brought us together once again," he said.

The prime minister recalled how Mahatma Gandhi started his movement against Aparthied in South Africa. "The birth of an independent India in 1947 in turn provided powerful support to the forces of nationalism and decolonisation in Africa," the prime minister said. 

Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were all ardent supporters of Indo-African cooperation.

The prime minister paid tribute to those who laid the foundation of Pan Africanism in the 20th century.

He announced that India would set up universities so that the African students could study in India."We will enhance opportunities for African students to pursue higher studies in India. As an immediate measure, we propose to double our long-term scholarships for undergraduates, postgraduates and higher courses and increase the number of training slots under our technical assistance programmes from 1,100 to 1,600 every year," he said.

The prime minister directed the ministry of external affairs to enhance the aid to Africa budget for implementing projects in critical areas focusing on human resource development and capacity building. 

"Over the next 5 to 6 years, we propose to undertake projects against grants in excess of $500 million", the prime minister said.

Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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