NEW DELHI: With five months left for the third India Africa Forum Summit here, more than 160 formal invites are finally on their way for the gala event even as as the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) gears up to frame a substantive agenda with its first meeting with African Union(AU) later this month. Late last week, the ministry dispatched 162 invitation letters for the leaders, ministers and senior officials of 54 African states to attend the largest ever gathering of foreign leaders in Delhi since the Non-aligned Summit in 1983.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has personally signed 54 letters for the Heads of States or government, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has similarly inked the invitations for her counterparts to attend the October jamboree. MEA’s Secretary (West) Navtej Sarna is similarly the signatory for the invitation to senior officials.
The invites to all the countries is a signal of the muscular approach taken by Modi Government towards foreign policy - since the earlier two Summits were limited to heads of African regional organisations.
These invites have been sent to the Indian missions, to be then delivered then to the Foreign Ministries of their respective accredited countries. The 30-odd Indian missions operating in Africa are accredited to multiple neighbouring countries.
Incidentally, Sushma handed over the invites personally to President Jacob Zuma and her counterpart during her ongoing visit to South Africa.
The only letter which may not reach its destination, at least for now, is Libya, where there is no functional central government. The Indian Embassy in Tripoli has already been relocated to Djerba in Tunisia.
The third India Africa forum summit was earlier postponed from its scheduled date in December 2014 due to the Ebola epidemic, which had led to imposition of restrictions on worldwide travel.
The protocol part of the Summit is being handled by the chief coordinator Syed Akbaruddin, who was former MEA spokesperson, the political aspect is being looked after by the territorial divisions, supervised by Secretary Sarna.
On May 27, an Indian delegation would be holding the first round of talks with the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to thrash out the agenda for Summit. “We have planned two rounds so far, one in Addis Ababa and another in Delhi,” he said.
Two documents are expected to be released after the Summit -- a declaration and a framework of cooperation. India will not announce new projects, as emphasis will be to complete the unfinished commitments from the previous two editions of IAFS.
Under IAFS-1 held in 2008, 19 institutes were to be built, out of which only two vocational training institutes have been completed in Ethiopia and Egypt.