Transcript of Special Briefing on the State Visit of the President of Kenya to India (December 05, 2023)

December 05, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for this Special Media Briefing on the occasion of the State visit of the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Mr. William Samoei Ruto, who has just finished his discussions with the Prime Minister a few minutes ago. To give us a sense of the conversation and the overall visit, we have the pleasure of having with us here Shri Dammu Ravi Sir, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs. Also joining us on the dais, Additional Secretary (East and Southern Africa) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Shri Puneet Kundal, as well as Smt. Namgya Khampa, our High Commissioner in Nairobi. Sir, may I invite you to for your opening remarks and then we'll take a few questions.

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): Thank you, Arindam, and good afternoon to all of you. President of the Republic of Kenya is visiting India on a State visit from 4th to 6th December. This is his first visit to India since he assumed office last year. And earlier on, the President of Kenya, the previous one, visited India, Uhuru Kenyatta, in 2017, January. Honorable Prime Minister Modi visited Kenya in July 2016. Honorable Speaker of Lok Sabha also visited Kenya earlier January this year. And our Foreign Minister, External Affairs Minister, visited Kenya in June 2021 for the Joint Commission meeting.

I would like to first emphasize on the importance of the visit, setting the context. This visit is taking place post the successful India's G20 Presidency, wherein India brought in the African Union membership, the permanent membership of the G20, which has been appreciated by the President William Ruto, and thanked Prime Minister for his personal efforts in bringing convergence and working with others to bring African Union into the fold of G20. The visit is also happening after the successful Voice of the Global South Summit, in which President Ruto participated in November, last month.

Let me also emphasize that the relationship between India and Kenya are on sound footing. They are age-old, they are both littoral States, Indian ocean which connects them, people-to-people contacts and trade have been extremely robust for many centuries. And the relationship are also strengthened through the institutional framework that the two countries have established, one is Foreign Office Consultations, the Joint Commission Meeting, the Joint Trade Committee Meetings. These institutional arrangements, the regular meetings take place between the two countries.

We also have a very robust development partnership with Kenya. Kenya is one of our very strong partner in Africa in the development partnership. The lines of credit have been well utilized, over about 100 million for the last three projects in recent times. The ITEC slots also have been very well utilized. India provides about 250 scholarships, ITEC slots every year, 50 defence slots, and about 48 ICCR scholarships. And several Kenyan students study in India, about 2,000 of them. Education is a very important area of cooperation between the two countries. In the field of trade and investment, again, it's been quite encouraging. The bilateral trade is about $3.3 billion. Significant part of it is India's exports there. Kenya imports about 116 million. And the investments from India's side is about $3.2 billion. About 200 Indian companies are actively present in Kenya.

During the delegation-level talks with Honorable Prime Minister and President Ruto, several interesting ideas of cooperation have come up, one of which is the digital public infrastructure. In this area, the Kenyan side expressed interest to learn from India in several areas, particularly in the fintech space, the UPI, the Aadhaar. And in health space, they have expressed interest to also have greater cooperation, particularly to have Indian specialist doctors visiting their country. And in turn, they would like to also have longer duration stay for their specialists and nurses, medical doctors to come to India to learn from us. Traditional medicine also figured very strongly in the bilateral talks. Kenya is very keen to have cooperation in the pharma. President himself said that about 70% of the sourcing of pharmaceutical medicines are from India. So they would like to have greater collaborations in medicine, pharma, vaccines, and genome technologies.

Agriculture cooperation is another area which strongly figured in the talks, particularly cooperatives; how both sides can share their understanding of the cooperatives and their use, particularly in the rural areas, the banking sector, and agriculture machinery. Interestingly, the Kenyan side has expressed interest to offer to India agriculture farming land for farming purposes, to be able to encourage Indian companies to go there and do farming. Education is another area. The Open universities of both sides, IGNOU and Kenyan Open University have entered into an MoU. Space is another area of cooperation. So this is broadly the areas in which the two sides have discussed.

There are several MoUs which have been concluded today, which is…I have the list. And I think the Joint Statement will come out with more details here. The MoU in cultural exchange program; MoU for sports; Sharing of the successful digital solutions, digital transformation; and Bureau of Indian Standards and the Bureau of Standards of Kenya; then IGNOU and the Open University of Kenya. So these are the five MoUs that have been signed.

Besides, there have also been other announcements. For example, you have the line of credit to enhance from the existing $100 million to $250 million for the agriculture modernization of Kenya; and the customized training program for 20 space scientists of Kenya Space Agency, which will be run by ISRO; and geospatial information portal for Kenya, which India will be developing for them. And then the last but not least is that Kenyan government expressed interest to join the International Solar Alliance and the Global Biofuels Alliance. As you all know, Kenya and India are the founding members of the International Big Cat Alliance, and both have agreed to deepen cooperation in this area.

Both sides have also issued the India-Kenya Joint Vision Statement on maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean region, and this is one of the important outcomes of this meeting. The defence cooperation has always been strong, and their Defence Minister visited last August. And there is an ongoing defence cooperation, which includes maritime cooperation, hydrography, etc.

In terms of the program, later this afternoon, there will be India-Kenya Business and Investment Forum, which the President will address; and there will be interaction with the Indian businesses on many areas. Several one-to-one meetings have been scheduled; yesterday, today and tomorrow, the President will be meeting with the Indian business leaders.

So, the visit of President William Ruto is expected to give further impetus to our bilateral relationship and promote economic linkages between our two countries, including greater Indian investment flow into Kenya. Thank you, if you have any question, I will be happy to take it.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. We'll open the floor. Please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent.

Sahil: Sir I'm Sahil from ANI. You touched upon the maritime cooperation, Sir. Can you elaborate on that, Sir, how India and Kenya can work together?

Huma Siddiqui: Sir, I'm Huma Siddiqui from the Financial Express. You talked about the defence cooperation, space and agriculture. I just want to understand, in agriculture, they're talking about contract farming. Is that correct? Because the Kenyans are looking for machinery and technology in the agri sector. And in the space, they're looking for nano-satellite. They want to build nano-satellite, and they're looking for help from India. Was this discussed?

Rishabh: Hello, Sir. Good afternoon. Rishabh from Times Now. Sir $250 million credit line for the agriculture to Kenya. Was mobility also discussed for people-to-people contact, if the mobility factor between India and Kenya discussed?

Kadambini Sharma: Kadambini Sharma from NDTV. You talked about Big Cat Alliance to deepen cooperation on that. Is there any program of getting more cheetahs from there?

Meghna: Sir Meghna from DD News. Sir I wanted to know if there were talks on businesses in the medical sector who have expressed interest in opening up hospitals in Kenya. Any such talks that have figured out, that have been there?

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): High Commissioner is also here, can supplement just in case to elaborate on it. See, on the maritime cooperation, it's already an ongoing activity between our two countries. I think, both countries are the littoral states of Indian Ocean. So there is concern about the piracy and movement of ships and the safety of the navigation line. So there is that common interest there to cooperate. And it's ongoing. The hydrographic surveys have also been part of the cooperation. And this has been going on for some time.

So the capacity building for the defense personnel, I think that's one item, we have been doing it. And that's again came up in the discussion today to further deepen in that area. They have been regularly participating in the Defence Expo. So I think in a broader sense, this is going to deepen in the days to come.

In terms of the agriculture cooperation, yes, I think this is where the Kenyan President has expressed interest to deepen cooperation, learn from us, particularly how in the rural areas the farming through the agricultural cooperative methods and those linkages, how they can learn from us. I think this is an area of interest, and supplementing and complementing that activity is actually agriculture farming. So they are willing to provide large tracts of land for Indian entrepreneurs to do agriculture farming in many areas, crops that Africa needs, not just for Kenya, including millets. It's a very nascent area. We'll have to see how our entrepreneurs can be encouraged to go to Africa to do this. And part of this, $250 million is actually for agriculture machinery. Again, as a policy about the development partnership, it is the recipient country which will decide how they want to utilize it. We will give them sufficient space and freedom to utilize it. But what came out very clearly is that they would like to use it for agriculture, agriculture machinery, tools and many things that may come out in that.

So in the medical, hospitals, in particular, it specifically has not come. But as you know, that medical tourism, according to the President, 90% of the medical travel, outbound medical travel is to India. So India is a very large pool. It attracts patients from Kenya. And now they want to deepen this relationship. They want to also develop capacities in the medical area in Kenya with the help of Indian specialists. So they want to give longer duration of stay for Indian specialists to go there and work, train their manpower as well. At the same time, they also like to have exchanges, bring their specialists to India and train them on a longer duration stay. I'm sure this kind of deeper activities, cooperation will lead to setting up of medical hospitals or institutions in future. But specifically, medical hospital setting has not figured in today's talks. But I guess it will be one of the areas, spin-off from these talks.

So the cheetas today is…I think, my colleague, Additional Secretary, tells me that Ministry of Environment and Forest has expressed interest. But this interest came only today. So we'll have to take it up to them and pass on this request to them to see if there is a possibility for cooperation in that area. Anything you want to add, High Commissioner?

Ms. Namgya Khampa, High Commissioner of India to Kenya: If I can just supplement, just coming to the Maritime Vision Statement that both sides released today, the Joint Maritime Vision Statement is really a recognition that as Indian Ocean littoral states, maritime exchanges and the maritime space has been a key part of our past, but also our future cooperation. And so we're looking at pillars under economic and connectivity exchanges. We're looking at maritime security and Secretary referred to counter-terrorism, piracy, threats and challenges from the maritime domain that we can work on together with Kenya. We're looking at capacity building. And we're also looking at this entire bucket of issues around blue economy. And there's a lot of convergence in how we can progress on fleshing out these ideas. And the Joint Maritime Vision Statement, in a sense, provides us a blueprint to take it forward.

Sidhant: Hi Sir, Sidhant from WION. Any conversation on trading in the national currencies, something that we have been focusing on?

Abhishek Jha: This is Abhishek Jha from CNN News18. Just a question. Did the talk of Zulfiqar Ahmed, the missing Indian in Kenya, was also raised because he's been missing and there are claims that he's been killed, but officially it has not been announced.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Two people?

Abhishek Jha: Two people. So was the issue discussed, and if you could update us on the case, on the probe?

Manas: Manas from PTI. I just want to know, Sir, in fact, in the digital space, particular DPI, what kind of cooperation we're looking at or what is the Kenyan side's interest on that?

Kallol: This is Kallol from the Hindu. This is about the Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan case. I mean, I understand the High Commissioner had met some of the officials last year when this case was unfolding and there was some forensic material that were also shared with the Indian authorities, if I'm right. So if you could just give us a sense of what you really saw. And what about this outlawed intelligence agency that was also reportedly involved in the…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, sorry, please address the question to in general. It's not just her. And what do you mean, what do you saw? She went and met people….who?

Kallol: I understand some details of the forensic materials were shared.

Chandrakala: This is Chandrakala from ETV Bharat. Sir, I have a question related to, of course, there has been a special mention on Africa's critical role on India's Indo-Pacific strategies and also the Prime Minister has mentioned it during his statement today. If you could just tell us how has been the cooperation when it comes to the Indo-Pacific between India and Africa.

Sandhya: Sir Sandhya from ET. Sir, just want to get a sense on the geospatial technology that India is developing and are there any private players that India is involving in that? Thanks.

Shri Dammu Ravi, Secretary (ER): Thank you very much. So, there's a whole lot of questions. So, I'll try and see how much I can answer or else, then rest my colleagues can answer, supplement.

So, one is the first question you'd asked about the national currency. This is, again, a big interest for Kenya. They have very clearly expressed interest to learn from us, want this collaboration between the two countries. So, linking that aspect and Prime Minister mentioned about the UPI, the FinTech Solutions and how India successfully introduced it, and we have introduced it to many countries. So, that one came up very strongly and they want to have a meeting with our authorities and we will be facilitating that today, tomorrow perhaps, with the concerned line ministries and departments; both also in the Direct, Indirect tax area where they want to learn from us, the UPI, FinTech Solutions and the direct cash benefits. So, how that has helped in bringing in efficiencies in governance and eliminating corruption and leakages. This discussion was very strong and there is a keen interest in both sides to take this forward.

The issue about missing Indians did come up. As you know that this has been there for quite some time. The authorities on both sides have been in contact with each other and information was being shared between the two sides. But at this point of time, we should not speculate because the investigation is ongoing. It's a subjudice matter in the courts of Kenya. So, perhaps if High Commissioner has more information, specifically, I'll ask her to supplement it. But this did come up. And we will have to wait and see how things will reveal in the days to come.

So, next is about the Africa, Indo-Pacific strategy. As you know, this is an area where Indo-Pacific region includes even Africa because many countries in Africa are the littoral states of Indian Ocean region. So, there is interest about the navigation, the freedom of navigation, the piracy issue, the terrorism issues. So, in the broader context, Africa figures very strongly in the strategy and we are looking at enhancing this cooperation in the days to come.

I'd like to request if Additional Secretary has something to add on the other aspects which I might have missed out and High Commissioner.

Ms. Namgya Khampa, High Commissioner of India to Kenya: On the two missing Indians, I think Secretary has already captured it succinctly. So, I have nothing further to add other than to say that the High Commission continues to monitor these developments and continues to be engaged with the authorities in Kenya on this matter.

On the digital space, our friend somewhere here asked us this question. The way I want to frame this is that in Kenya's domestic agenda, digital transformation has been taken up by the current government, that has been in power for one year. And they see India as a very relevant reference point and as a partner in their digital transformation journey. So, today we concluded a MoU on DPI, Digital Public Infrastructure. And there has been a lot of exchanges already under this particular sector prior to the visit as well. And there will continue to be after this visit in follow up. And we're looking at things like how digital technologies and digital public infrastructure can help transform healthcare, can help transform delivery of government services. The kind of things and transformation we've seen in India riding on the digital wave, and I think Kenya really wants to absorb that as best as they can and that figured in the conversations today. And that certainly is part of the interest that they have conveyed in clear terms to us today.

On the space cooperation issue, madam, we are at the moment at a phase where there's a conversation going on between the Kenya Space Agency and our space authorities. And specifically under the rubric of this visit, what has been agreed to, is capacity building. So, there are going to be training opportunities offered to Kenyan space scientists as well as developing a geospatial portal for them. The details of that conversation are something that are developing between the two space agencies and they will be available in the coming days.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you, we will close with that. My thanks to Secretary, Dammu Ravi; to the Additional Secretary; and to High Commissioner, Namgya Khampa. Thank you all for joining. Good afternoon.


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