Djibouti City: President Ram Nath Kovind began the first leg of his four-day visit to Djibouti and Ethiopia. He arrived at Dijbouti City on his maiden trip abroad after assuming office.
The president, who is the first Indian leader to visit Djibouti, was received by Djiboutian Prime Minister Kamil Mohamed at the airport. He also garlanded Mahatma Gandhi’s bust.
During his visit to the two African nations, the president is expected to sign agreements on institutionalisation of foreign office consultation and greater economic cooperation with Ethiopia, Neena Malhotra, Joint Secretary (East and Southern Africa) in the Ministry of External Affairs had said earlier.
Press Secretary to the President Ashok Malik said that Djibouti is an important Indian Ocean partner country with whom India’s bilateral trade stands at USD 284 million in 2016-17.
“The president is looking forward to the visit. He recognises that the Africa and Indian Ocean region are central to Indian foreign policy. That is why this region was chosen as his first foreign visit,” Mr Malik said.
India has extended a line of credit of USD 49 million to Djibouti, mainly for constructing a cement plant. It is a strategically located country just off the Gulf of Aden.
President Kovind’s visit will be the first by an Indian president to Ethiopia after 45 years. The last visit was by President V V Giri in 1972.
India’s bilateral trade with Ethiopia in 2016 was nearly USD 1 billion. The country is among the top three foreign investors in Ethiopia with an approved investment of 4 billion dollars.
In both the countries the president will also interact with the members of the Indian community.
The president’s visit comes in the backdrop of Chinese PLA troops conducting their first live-fire military drills overseas on their base in strategically-vital Djibouti last month, in a major combat display.