Rabat (Morocco): India on Tuesday said it wanted to make Morocco the hub for its economic activities in the African region as the two countries sought to inject fresh momentum in bilateral ties with Vice President Hamid Ansari holding wide-ranging talks with the Moroccan prime minister.
Two MoUs on cultural cooperation and institutional training were signed after Ansari met Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and delegation-level talks were held between the two sides. "We reviewed all aspects of our expanding cooperation. Morocco is crucial to us for food security as it is the main supplier of phosphate which is crucial for agriculture," Ansari said as the two leaders jointly spoke to the media.
Five Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) had been finalised between India and Morocco for improving bilateral relations but only two could be signed.
The MoUs on Cultural Exchange and Institutional Training for Foreign Service officers were signed, Secretary Economic Relations Amar Sinha said at a media briefing. Sinha said the MoUs relating to other three areas of cooperation -- Water Resources, Television Broadcasting and Education -- have been finalised but "could not be signed due to technical issues".
Sinha said the vice president conveyed to the leadership that the Indian government would like to look at Morocco and expand its economic activities since the two countries have a trade of $350 million.
"We would like to use Morocco as a hub for our economic activities in the African region," Sinha quoted the vice president as saying during the talks.
The Moroccan prime minister said India is an important partner for them, India's Ambassador to Morocco Dinesh Patnaik said. "The two agreed to make the relations more dimensional for increased cooperation," Patnaik said.
Both the sides stressed on the need for injecting fresh momentum in bilateral relations. Morocco said that they need to look into the issues of political stability, economic development and human resources development, Sinha said. Ansari said India appreciates Morocco's support for India's candidature for the UN Security Council.
The two sides identified new areas of mutual cooperation which included information technology, the vice president said, adding that the MoUs signed will be beneficial for both countries. He said that India was very happy to receive the King of Morocco Mohammed VI, who came to India last year for the Indo-Africa Summit.
The vice president said on behalf of the Indian government he invited Prime Minister Benkirane to visit India. Benkirane said Morocco sees India as a friend. "We will work together for a common future for the Mediterranean region." He said the two countries will also work in engaging jointly in efforts towards counter-terrorism. Benkirane indicated he may visit India this year. Briefing the media, Sinha said, "We are not looking at short-term cooperation as far as Institutional training of Foreign Service officers is concerned."
"Moroccan diplomats would come to India for one year while Indian diplomats would also visit Morocco," he said.
Sinha said the vice president during his interaction with the prime minister held discussions on bilateral issues and decided to increase cultural exchanges. He said on the issue of terrorism both shared their perception on the need to exchange information. Sinha said Information Technology is another area which the vice president highlighted and the Prime Minister Benkirane evinced keen interest in the issue. He said India will be setting up a Centre of Excellence on IT that will be set up by C-DAT, which will take special care of linking IT to the industry. Sinha said that India will also train Moroccans in various other fields like English speaking and e-governance, including creating data base of 33 million population of Morocco like the Aadhaar scheme in India.
"We told them about the benefits of Aadhaar in DBT and other programmes," he said.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Rachid Talbi Alami and the Speaker of the House of Councillors Abdelhakim also separately called on the vice president "Our MPs sought to know about obstructions etc to which they said that they do not face such things as Houses are for formation of laws," Sinha said.
Both the speakers stressed the need for formation of Joint Parliamentary Forum to which the vice president said that back home he would discuss the issue with the speaker.
The vice president has invited both the speakers to visit India. Asked about the extradition treaty between the two countries, Patnaik said it was not there but Morocco has always been helpful. "Even without an extradition treaty Morocco had extradited a wanted criminal of Karnataka some time back," the ambassador said.
He said that most countries today need intelligence from Morocco as this was the country which also helped in cracking the Paris bomb blast case. Ansari's trip here is the first high-level visit to the African country after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee went there in 1999. Besides his wife Salma Ansari, the vice president is accompanied by Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, four members of Parliament and senior officials. On June 2, Ansari will head to Tunisia for a two-day visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Habib Essid.