INDIA - KENYA BILATERAL RELATIONS
Although trade links between India and Kenya go back several centuries, recent migration of Indians to Kenya took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century to help build the Mombasa-Kampala railway line. At the same time many others, mostly Gujaratis, arrived to set up small businesses all over the country. India’s active support for the Kenyan freedom struggle also laid the foundations of a close relationship. Prominent personalities like Sardar Makhan Singh, M.M. Desai and Pio Gama Pinto are remembered even today for their active role in Kenya’s struggle for independent nationhood.
After India’s independence in 1947, Kenya was one of the first countries in Africa where India established a diplomatic mission in 1948. Apa Saheb Pant was India’s first Commissioner to East Africa from 1948 to 1954, based in Nairobi. The Mission was raised to the status of High Commission on 12th December, 1963 when Kenya attained independence.
Exchange of High Level Visits:
Bilateral exchange of visits at the HOS/ HOG/Ministerial level has been very limited.
Despite the absence of frequent bilateral visits, political leadership of both countries has displayed close relations, rapport and understanding of each other’s views on bilateral and multilateral issues. Most recently, we received full support for our candidate for the Commonwealth Secretary General’s post.
Joint Commission Meeting:
A Joint Commission between India and Kenya was set up in December 1999. The first meeting of the Joint Commission was held in Nairobi on 21-22 July 2003. The Indian delegation was led by the then MOS for External Affairs, Shri Digvijay Singh. Kenya’s delegation was led by Kalonzo Musyoka, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs (now Vice-President).
Education and Technical Cooperation:
Students from Kenya have been going to India regularly since 1950s to pursue higher education. In addition, over 50 trainees benefit from ITEC/ICCR Scholarship schemes every year. Kenya’s defence personnel have also been attending senior level defence training programmes in India.
EDCIL organized an Indian Education Fair in Kenya in February 2003. FICCI and UGC jointly organized an Indian Education Fair in Kenya in June 2004 in which 18 Indian universities took part. Guru Nanak Dev University and 13 affiliated colleges held an Education Fair in Nairobi in April 2006.
The Indo-Kenya Trade Agreement was signed in March 1981 in which both countries agreed to accord each other the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment.
The 5th India-Kenya Joint Trade Committee (JTC) met in New Delhi on 16-17 December 2008. The Kenyan delegation was led by the Dr.(Eng)Cyrus Njiru, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, while the Indian delegation was headed by Shri Jairam Ramesh, MOS for Commerce and Power.
Bilateral trade has registered a substantial increase in the last 4-5 years with the trade volume exceeding US $ 1200 million last year. Major exports from India to Kenya include drugs and pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery etc. Major imports from Kenya include raw cashew, leather and leather products, scrap metal etc.
Prospects for Indian business:
As Kenya is a major exporter of agricultural and horticultural products, there is scope for cooperation in setting up agro-processing industries in Kenya. Other promising sectors for cooperation include drug and pharmaceuticals and infrastructure development sectors like roads, rail privatization, telecom including equipment and accessories, energy including generation and distribution, expansion of Kenya pipeline, expansion of airports. Moreover, as Kenya’s tea industry is one of the world’s largest, there is enormous scope for exports of tea machinery to Kenya.
Various Indian Export Promotion Councils continue to visit Kenya regularly for market study/holding Buyer-Seller Meets. Recent visit include:
The Essar Group has invested US $500 million to launch a fourth GSM network mobile service along with Econet Wireless International under the brand name YU in November 2008. In addition the Group has purchased a 50 per cent stake in Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited at a cost of US$ 11 million. The Reliance Group are believed to have made an investment in real estate in Nairobi worth US$ 200 million. Bharat Petroleum Corporation has invested US$ 70 million for the construction of an LPG plant in Nairobi. An Indian firm has recently invested US$ 78 million in the horticulture sector in Kenya.
Co-operation at International Organizations:
Kenya and India have been co-operating with each other in the UN, NAM, Commonwealth and on issues of interest to G-77. Kenya is a member of G-15 as well as IOR-ARC.
While the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) links the two countries, bilateral cultural exchanges go beyond the CEP. Nairobi and other Kenyan towns are favourite and regular destinations for visiting Indian cultural troupes. A fresh Agreement on the CEP between India and Kenya for the years 2003–2006 was signed on 22 July 2003 in Nairobi during the first meeting of the Indo-Kenya Joint Commission. Some of the ICCR-sponsored cultural troupes which visited Kenya during the last few years include:
A 7-member `Sarakasi All Stars’ group, sub-Editor of Times News Service and a representative of an NGO participated from Kenya in the cultural programme accompanying the India-Africa Forum Summit meeting at New Delhi in April 2008.
The presence of a sizeable number of people of Indian origin in Kenya adds an important dimension to India-Kenya relationship. There are around 70,000 people of Indian origin whose hold on the economic levers in Kenya is estimated to be between 30-35%. Of these, about 75% are Kenyans citizens, 10% are British overseas citizens and about 15% are Indian citizens.
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