Diplomacy and bilateral relations are at its 'boo-moo' best as Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is gifting 200 cows to Rwanda. The prime minister's visit to the landlocked African country, which has among the highest AIDS-related mortality rates in the world, is the first ever by any Indian premier.
The PM's five-day, three-nation tour is in line with Delhi's 'new and renewed focus' on the continent of Africa. Most countries of the continent are riding a wave of resurgent economy. Rwanda too is a case in point. The country, with population and land area less than that of India's southern state Kerala, could well hold a world of economic opportunity for big-brother India.
Rwanda's predominantly rural population, consisting mostly of three ethnic groups — Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa — are increasingly becoming urbanised. The government of Rwanda has been able to attain 6-8 per cent GDP growth consistently since 2003, nine years after the country saw a massive ethnic genocide. The Rwandan government's primary aim after 2003 has been to consolidate economic growth. Its stated aim is to create a middle-income society by 2020.
India is gunning for 'new and emergent' investment opportunities. Indian IT and telecom majors could invest and reap the early bird advantage in a nascent and 'un-towered' country which is desperately trying to bring more people under the mobile phone cover. This apart, Indian healthcare, tourism and insurance sectors too have evinced interest in the country which will have a sizeable middle class in two years (2020).
As Rwanda tries to re-position itself at the centre of the African scheme of things, the Rs 200-crore credit line that India has extended will be a significant impetus to bilateral relations too.
The Rwandan government's priorities for the next decade are 'education and capacity building,' 'economic and job growth,' and 'population reduction.' Going by statistics, the country has been making progress in economy and population reduction. With a consistent 8% GDP and a reduction in average number of births per women from 5.6 in 2005 to 4.5 in 2016, Rwanda looks to be on course. Despite this, Rwanda's population growth is expected to remain high due to the large number of people attaining reproductive age.
So, till where does one take the cow? The 200 head of cattle has a definite ethnic implication for a country where agriculture accounts for 63 per cent of export earnings.
Most African countries have cow raids or cattle raids where miscreants and armed rebel groups raid villages and take away cattle holdings, thereby depriving the people of their livelihood. Hundreds of cattle raids are reported from African countries every year.
So, as the Indian PM relies on his fond 'Gomatha' when he goes calling on a continent, there could be layered meaning to it. For once, NaMo could be picking one of his favourite Hindu motifs to further the right wing agenda. But, a country on the verge of landing its crew on Mars is giving its new-found friend a 'cattle class' gift. Also, a thoughtful Mars orbiter memento to Rwandan president Paul Kagame would have practically given India monumental adulation on the word stage.
Cow, its dung and urine
Cows are not a bad thing, nor is its dung and urine. But NaMo's diplomatic back office could have been more imaginative. To say the least, India could have given Rwanda something to aspire for - a new composite from the IIT, a new space suit or a small weather sat.
The diplomatic office of the Indian PM could be urged to explain how the 200 cows will inspire an average Rwandan.
The headcount 200 probably forms a faint rhythm with Rs 200 million credit line on offer.
Hooves, humps, horns
As NaMo sets foot on more countries, let us aspire for diplomatic thoughtfulness, way above hooves, humps, and horns, to prevail.
(Views expressed are personal)
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