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Interview of Ambassador, H.E.Mr. Sailas Thangal with the newspaper La Diplomatique d'Abidjan (LDA)

Posted on: April 17, 2022 | Back | Print

HEM Sailas Thangal, Ambassador of India in Côte d'Ivoire: "Côte d'Ivoire will not find a better partner than India"

The Ambassador of India to Côte d'Ivoire, HEM Sailas Thangal, in an exclusive interview granted to "La Diplomatique d'Abidjan (LDA)" speaks about bilateral cooperation between New Delhi and Abidjan.

LDA: Your Excellency, please tell us about the beginning of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Côte d'Ivoire?

ST: Between Côte d'Ivoire and India, there is a great geographical distance. But these two countries have a lot in common. They have a common history. India had its independence on 5 August 1947 and Côte d'Ivoire on 07 August 1960. So India had its independence 13 years before Ivory Coast. It should be noted that these two countries were colonized. India by the British and Côte d'Ivoire by the French. These two countries lived a long colonization and finally, they obtained their independence. And these two countries have developed to become countries that count on the international scene. They share a common vision on certain issues at the international level. There is an excellent relationship between them. Based on this relationship, India opened its Embassy here in Côte d'Ivoire in 1979 and Côte d'Ivoire opened its Embassy in India in 2004.

LDA: What factors have influenced the good relationship between the two countries?

ST: The two countries share similar views on international issues such as cross-border terrorism, climate change and other issues addressed by the United Nations. And as a proof, when Côte d'Ivoire became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2018, India supported Côte d'Ivoire. Today, India is a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Côte d'Ivoire supported India.

LDA: Several agreements have been signed between the two countries. What is the evolution of these agreements to date?

ST: Another aspect that should be noted is the agreement that was signed with the government. This is a loan that was granted by Exim Bank through the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development. This loan was intended for the construction of 25 health centers and the rehabilitation of 125 health centers throughout the country. Also. If these centers have adequate premises, part of this fund is intended to equip them. These are important projects that show what India has been able to achieve in terms of investment.

LDA: What is the level of cooperation between the two countries since the opening of your Embassy in Côte d'Ivoire?

ST: The areas in which India and Côte d'Ivoire cooperate are multiple and this is because of the convergence of points of view. India considers Côte d'Ivoire as a very important partner in sub-Saharan Africa. And Côte d'Ivoire has mentioned in the past years, that India is a key country in its development policy. Therefore, there are areas of similarity that the two countries have and on which they base their cooperation. These areas are agriculture, information technology and infrastructure.

LDA: What else your Excellency?

ST: There is also the pharmaceutical sector where India is known as the world's pharmacy. And with this experience, Côte d'Ivoire cannot find a better partner than India in the cooperation and development of the Pharmaceutical Industry. On the occasion of the 75 years of its independence, India organized free medical camps with free consultations and free medicine for the population, in various general hospitals, in various cities in Côte d'Ivoire.

There is also the automotive sector with two large companies established in Côte d'Ivoire, namely TATA and Ashok Layland. India has already a strong experience in the manufacturing of cars of all types, which are solid, resistant and competitive prices compared to the other vehicles which are imported, because we know that for a country to develop, it is necessary for the sector of transport to be strong. Côte d'Ivoire cooperates with India in this sense. The sector of information technology is also a sector of cooperation between the two countries. And given that it is key in all sectors, India with its experience can assist Côte d'Ivoire. The last sector is that of defense. India has made great progress in the manufacturing of defense equipment. India has experienced cross-border terrorism and has been able to deal with it and defeat it. Today, the northern zone of Côte d'Ivoire is facing terrorism. So India in its cooperation with Côte d'Ivoire can help face this phenomenon and have it benefit from India's defense technology.

LDA: India is investing a lot in Côte d'Ivoire. Can you tell us the volume of investment for the year 2021?

ST: I don't have the exact figures for investments made in 2021. What I can say is that the year 2021 was a difficult year because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, during this year, it should be noted that the largest cashew processing unit in the world was built in Toumodi. This shows that despite all these situations, India is investing through its community. About $50 to $60 million was invested to set up this cashew processing unit, and about $20 to $30 million to run it. It has a processing capacity of 50 thousand tons of cashew nuts. This capacity can be increased. Côte d'Ivoire is making efforts to increase its cashew processing capacity. In this momentum, India through its investors plays a big role. It should also be noted that President Alassane Ouattara and his Prime Minister are doing a great deal of work on investment policy in Côte d'Ivoire. With the improvement of the business environment, the country has become more attractive.

LDA: So, can we say that Côte d'Ivoire is a suitable place for investments?

ST: For the investments in Côte d'Ivoire, the country has a great potential in various fields. Precisely, this policy of improving the business environment helps to attract investors in the country. Bilateral trade between India and Côte d'Ivoire has crossed one billion dollars. All this translates into investments that contribute to building and developing the economy of Côte d'Ivoire, and to create jobs for the Ivorian population. Regarding agriculture, 50% of the Ivorian and Indian populations depend on agriculture. It is therefore an area in which the two countries must strengthen their cooperation. The other sector is health. Regarding health, the President of the Republic Alassane Ouattara had the vision to do something great in Côte d'Ivoire. Hence the new name: Ministry of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Health Coverage. This aspect denotes the great vision that the President and his Prime Minister have to provide the Ivorian population with quality health care.

LDA: What about the forecast in terms of investments in 2022?

ST: For the year 2022, I don't want to comment. But given the momentum, I am convinced that there will be more good things to come. Because of the good relations between India and Côte d'Ivoire, Indian private investments in Côte d'Ivoire have crossed one billion dollars. And regarding the cooperation between government, we speak about an amount of more than 500 million Dollars. Beside that, the Indian community which has settled in Côte d'Ivoire and plays a very important role. It has about 2,500 members and serves as a cultural and economic bridge between the two countries.

LDA: India intends to strengthen its cooperation with Côte d'Ivoire, in a win-win partnership in various sectors. What are those?

ST: Currently, Côte d'Ivoire is very successful and is the world leader in cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, rubber and cashew nuts. However, it imports rice. India is a large producer of rice. Another sector is health. Côte d'Ivoire imports 94% of the medicines that are consumed on the Ivorian territory. India is known as the world's pharmacy and exports a lot of medicines. These medicines are of good quality and are available at low cost. In spite of the costs, when these medicines have to transit through France, they are still less expensive than others. There is also the automotive industry. So there are many aspects that I can develop but all this is to say that Côte d'Ivoire will not find a better partner than India to initiate a real development of its economy, together. It is not to say that Côte d'Ivoire is behind in agriculture and other areas. But, it is a question of developing complementarities together to pursue the development which is already in progress.

LDA: We have come to the end of this interview. Excellency, do you want to add something personal?

ST: To conclude, as an Ambassador, I have very much enjoyed my stay in Côte d'Ivoire. My family and I are very grateful to the Ivorian people with whom we have lived. Another thing I can add is that when I started my mandate, two years were disrupted because of the Covid-19 crisis. I even wanted to learn French (smile). But just as I was about to start, the Covid-19 crisis started. It really stopped me in my tracks. But I can say that I really appreciate Côte d'Ivoire and the Ivorian people. To finish, I would like to say that Côte d'Ivoire has a great potential and with India, they have many areas of complementarities.


Interview conducted by Mohamed Compaoré