Mozambique, formerly a Portuguese colony, administered by the Portuguese Governor or its Viceroy based at Goa in India till 1752. The country was once considered to be the poorest country on earth. And this remained so until as late as the 1990s.
It was ripped apart by a decade-and-half long fratricidal civil war between the Frelimo, the ruling party in control of the cities supported by the Soviet Union and the Renamo (National Resistance Movement) controlling rural countryside with support from the US, South Africa and Portugal. The battle was marked by the most barbaric violence (cutting of noses, ears and breasts and mutilation of genitalia of women by young soldiers aged 12-13 years) causing death to over 1 million Mozambicans , extensive destruction of infrastructures and turning around five million Mozambicans into displaced refugees to neighbouring countries.
Eventually, it ended with the signing of the General Peace Agreement brokered by the Italian Government and the Community of Sant Edigio in Rome on Oct 4, 1992 by President Chissano and Renamo President Dhlakama .
The Elections supervised by the UN and Commonwealth Observers held in October 1994 confirmed Alberto Chissano as the President and Dhlakama’s as the main opposition leader. UNOMOZ (United Nations Peace Mission in Mozambique) in which the Indian contingent played a major role along with Russian, Chinese and Brazilian troops is considered one of the success stories of UN Peace keeping in recent times.
Ever since, Mozambique has not looked back, worked hard to maintain political stability with periodical elections, built infrastructure from scratch, strengthened internal security, introduced economic liberalisation and invited foreign investment resulting in flow of investments from Europe, the US, South Africa, China and India. Government strategy has paid off and today Mozambique is one of the fastest growing economies in the whole of Africa.
Even before the Peace agreement, in spite of prevailing insecurity and lack of basic amenities like hospitals and schools, many IOC and ONGC engineers were helping in Mozambique’s search for oil gas and teachers from India were teaching in universities. People of Indian origin whose forefathers arrived from Goa ,Daman & Diu in Ilha de Mocambique nearly 300 years back on simple boats surviving the choppy waters of the Indian ocean, run department or provision stores, restaurants, travel agencies etc; they are relatively well off and tend to cling on and bond with each other under the umbrella of Hindu Samaj.
Apart from the remnant influence of Goan life, the Indian Mozambicans display deep love for Indian food, festivals, and music and, of course, the Bollywood films. No wonder, when Mithun Chakravarty performed in Maputo in1995, President Chissano asked him to perform on the song: “I am a disco dancer!”
Discovery of oil, gas and coal and other minerals and enhanced production of marine and agricultural products have made Mozambique a major partner of India in Africa. The two-way trade in 2015 stood at US$ 4.2 billion which is likely to go up. ONGC Videsh and Bharat Petroleum have already bought 30 percent shares in the LNG project that will bring gas to India.
Some Indian private sector companies have been exploring coal in Mozambique while others have been importing raw cashew. Tata and Ashok Leyland buses were introduced in Mozambique initially under Africa Fund leading to further orders by the Ministry of Defence. Current prices of pulses hitting the ceiling might ease a bit with supply of pulses by Mozambique. The long term strategy to encourage production of Indian pulses in Mozambique with buy back arrangement is sensible; the MOU signed during Modi’s visit on July 7th should be welcomed.
Besides this, there is considerable convergence in views of the two countries in the areas of energy security, renewable energy, food security and maritime security which offer prospects of closer cooperation. Both countries stand to benefit from addressing the issue of illicit trafficking in drugs and narcotics. Development of new renewable energy technologies, R&D and transfer of technology in this field can advance further with Institutional relationships forged by the two countries.
India has been helping Mozambique in various capacity building projects related to ICT or information and communication technology, health, education, rehabilitation of roads, railways and exploration of oil and gas. Mozambique supports India’s claim to become a permanent member of the UNSC. She also supports Modi’s pet project: International Solar Alliance and initiatives for IORA or Inidan Ocean Rim Association.
Propagating Yoga in Mozambique has turned out to be easier. In 1994 Mahesh Yogi whom President Chissano considered his spiritual Guru had sent more than 200 yoga instructors who taught yoga to nearly 70,000 Mozambican soldiers every morning for 45 minutes. They later claimed that positive vibrations created by yoga lessons led to the signing of the General Peace Agreement in Rome!
After the Third India-Africa Forum Summit held in October 2015 in New Delhi and attended by 54 countries from Africa, Modi is in serious implementation mood. By the time he finishes his African tour, the President, the Vice President and the Indian PM would have set an unprecedented record of visiting nine African countries in 45 days.
This underlines India’s belated realization of Africa’s geo-political, geo-strategic and geo-economic significance and the recognition of its great potential for trade, business and investment. Modi becomes the first PM to visit Mozambique and Kenya after Indira Gandhi in1982! Considerable blame for this long hiatus must be borne by the IFS whose blue eyed boys and girls avoid postings in Africa on flimsy grounds. No wonder since 1948, only four Foreign Secretaries have served in Africa.