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Cameroon-India: Impressive Prospects Of Bilateral Cooperation - «Trade Between Cameroon And India Is Growing Fast»

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Cameroon-India: Impressive Prospects Of Bilateral Cooperation
«Trade Between Cameroon And India Is Growing Fast»
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H.E. Mashesh Sachdev, Indian High Commissioner to Cameroon in a chat with Cameroon Tribune  assesses the level of relations between both countries

«Trade Between Cameroon And India Is Growing Fast»

You just handed over your letters of credence to President Paul Biya. What does Cameroon represent to India?
Cameroon is an important partner of India in Africa. It is a fascinating relationship that is strong, multi-faceted and rapidly growing. There is a wide access of bilateral relationship and promise lies in the future. We enjoy cordial ties based on strong perceptions and values that we have in common. We are both developing countries, members of various international organisations, we are multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual democracies, living in pluralities. We both have important and large natural and manpower resources that we would like to develop to give greater prosperity to our people by improving their living standards. These are commonalities which create opportunities for greater cooperation between us. Some of these opportunities are already being exploited; others are still on the drawing board and some at the conception level.  
Cameroon is in a period of “Major Accomplishments” programme under President Paul Biya with several development projects earmarked. Is India in any way involved in some of the projects?
We certainly are. I look at it as a win-win situation. India has been involved in agriculture, information technology and African Networks, as it is called. We are also involved as a major supplier of pharmaceutical drugs to Cameroon. Currently, we are seriously discussing on a very large industrial project of extracting Cameroon’s reserves of bauxite to convert into aluminium. An Indian company, HINDALCO, is the operator of Cameroon Aluminium Limited that is currently in serious negotiations with the Ministry of Mines and we are hopeful that the project will be launched very soon.
What is the volume of trade between India and Cameroon?
Trade between Cameroon and India is growing very rapidly. Recent trade figures between Cameroon and India speak for themselves. The value of export from Cameroon to India was 62.75 million US dollars while Cameroonian imports from India stood at 56.27 million US dollars by December 28, 2011 giving a total trade exchange of 119.2 million US dollars between both countries in three months. This created a trade balance of 6.49 million US dollars.
The situation during the 2011-2012 fiscal year shows that Indian exports-value is 72.43 and an import value of 319.12; giving a total trade exchange of 319.55 million US dollars and a trade balance of -246.69, meaning India is at a deficit. The growth figures show that Cameroonian exports to India are valued at 15.41 million US dollars and Indian imports from Cameroon have gone up to 467.16 million US dollars. So, the total trade between India and Cameroon in six months is nearly 400 million dollars. Actually, Cameroon gains with much trade surplus in their exchange with India and bilateral trade is growing very rapidly.     
Is there also a possibility for Cameroonians to benefit from the Indian health care experience which seems to be IT-based these days?
The government of India donated tele-education and tele-medicine facilities to the government of Cameroon for the 50th anniversaries celebrations. Tele education is based in the University of Yaounde I and through it, students sitting in virtual classrooms in Yaounde attend courses in India, write examinations and are awarded certificates in India. There are a number of courses which are already on; Masters in Information Technology, Masters in Tourism, a sector which Cameroon is very much interested in developing, and Masters in Data Management. We have tele-medcine facilities in CHUY (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Yaoundé). Here, direct online consultation is possible with the Cameroonian division and with the best experts of a given health sector in India. We have also given some equipment which is Internet savvy. Until now, those suspected of cancer had their samples taken to some European countries and it often took some 45 days for the result analysis to be obtained.  Imagine a person who doesn’t have cancer and is told only after 45 days! The IT savvy microscope we have given enables Cameroonian analysts and Indian experts to look at the patient simultaneously. You have the result immediately or within a few hours.  
Cameroonians have learnt so much about Indian cars that are relatively cheap, why are they not available on Cameroonian roads?
This question is warranted. India has emerged as the sixth largest manufacturer of cars now. More than two millions cars are being produced in India, nearly a third of them are being exported and many of them to Africa. We should not rule out these cars being on Cameroonian roads very soon because we are launching them all over Africa. There are Indian brands like Tata Nano, Hindustan Ambassador, Avigo, for example. But there are international brands which may not appear to be Indian but actually are. Many of the HINDAI cars that are sold in Africa are actually made in India. In two months, Toyota will launch its factory of exports from India to Africa. So you would never know unless you open the bonnet and see whether these cars are from a Japanese, American or Korean brand or are actually made in India.
There is high level of technological advancement in India which Cameroonians would like to take advantage of may be, through training in Indian Universities. But this is not the case today?
You are absolutely right. We are emerging as a major educational power, a major knowledge acquisition source and this is proved by a large number of African students going to India. Cameroonians are also going to India for various courses, including IT, for example, but there is a bit of obstacle because a majority of Cameroonians are French-speaking and the medium of instruction in India is English Language. This has to do with our respective histories and that limits us a little bit, but I am confident that the number will continue to grow.   
Demographically, India counts about a billion inhabitants, yet the country is not felt strategically like other countries which are in the UN Security Council. What are the strategies being put in place to make India more visible on the world stage?
You have raised a very important question. It is in fact an anomaly that the United Nations Security Council composition, as of now, reflects the post Second World War balance of power among various forces and in the international arena. As you know, much has happened since then and in the last 65-70 years, the world has changed.  Most of the Third World was all colonies at that time, now they are vibrant independent countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. There has been a widely felt call for reforms of the UN Security Council to make its composition reflect the current state of affairs.
You are absolutely right that this anomaly inhibits UN System to work efficiently and optimally and we often have this reflected in its functionality. India has voiced her candidature for a permanent seat of the UN Security Council in a consistent and regular manner. We have joined hands with similar minded countries, like the G4 Group of countries and we are trying to gather momentum and have these reforms implemented so that the UN Security Council is expanded and reformatted to account for current realities of the world situation. We think that Cameroon would continue to support us in this endeavour.
In the same line, what is the vision that India has of the world today, geo-strategically?
It is both an easy and difficult question to answer. India’s vision is a greater voice to multi-polarity, to developing countries of the world, and we believe that we need to reform the world’s financial, political, economic order in a way that it does not impede developing countries from exercising their right to development.
Since 2008, the world has witnessed serious economic crisis beginning with the World Street and now the Euro zone crisis. What analysis is India making of the world economic recession?
Luckily, India is less affected by this turbulence in the main because we are relatively insulated. Our economy is largely driven by domestic demand and domestic investments and these have continued to flourish, of course due to international factors. There has been an impact on exports, the value of the Rupee has gone down, the growth rate has gone down from highs of 9.1 per cent last financial year and the latest growth rate is 6.7 per cent in the third quarter of the year 2011. But India is still among the fastest growing major economies in the world and we believe that the major economic powers in the world should handle their own respective matters in a way that it leads to their own domestic growth and does not impede international economic cooperation. We would also like the world not to become a protectionism-driven economy and we would like us to continue to have Doha Round Negotiations for example, which have not yet been sealed.      
India is far advanced technologically and I am wondering how the country is balancing such progress with the worries over climate change that is largely caused by industrialization?
There are two ways that we hope to mitigate the impact of climate change. Firstly, the Indian economy is changing its composition from a manufacturing-driven economy to a service-based or knowledge-based economy. You have heard of India’s IT sector and the services sector. The services sector now contributes around 58 per cent of the GDP, agriculture continues to be an important driver as well and the industrial sector is the second largest. For example, the information technology contributes about 90 billion dollars to India’s GDP. That sector is less energy intensive and faster growing than the manufacturing sector, that itself helps.
Secondly, the composition of the energy basket of India is also evolving. India is placing greater reliance on renewable and new sources of energy like wind. We have 14,000 megawatts of wind power being generated and solar power which is coming up as a new source of energy very rapidly in India. We also have an ambitious nuclear power programme. These and conservation of energy emphasis have contributed to India being a less energy-intensive country. We are the second largest country in terms of population, but we are the fourth largest user of energy in the world. That itself shows that per capita utilisation of energy is low. When the last energy dialogue was held in Copenhagen, India’s energy intensity was one sixth of the world’s average. So you can imagine how energy efficient we are.
Are there moves for both Cameroon and India to see more bilateral cooperation in cultural exchanges?
We have had cultural intermingling for a long time. Indian films have been extremely popular in Cameroon. I personally know a number of Cameroonians who can cite Indian songs, dialogues in the films, who have Indian film actor’s names given to them when they were children without knowing the language. Similarly, we have had exchanges of performing groups from Cameroon to India. In 2009, we were able to quickly send a team of Cameroonian artists to India to perform at a major India-Africa event. We have also had Indian artists visit Cameroon. We had the case of Douala in 2010 where an Indian focal group visited. We both are blessed with vibrant and multi-faceted cultures coming out of our social milieu. I believe that we need to do more in this regard.


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