Ahead of Jaishankar's visit, Tunisia lauds India's partnership with Africa

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 21, 2020, 07.49 PM(IST)

Tunisia's envoy to India Nejmeddine Lakhal Photograph:( WION )

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Tunisian envoy to India Nejmeddine Lakhal told WION that his country has steadfastly maintains 'zero tolerance' on terror

Ahead of external affairs minister S Jaishankar's Tunisia visit, Tunisian envoy to India Nejmeddine Lakhal lauded New Delhi role on its partnership with Africa and said his country shares its outlook with India on "zero tolerance" policy towards terrorism. Speaking to our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Lakhal said as a non-permanent member of the UNSC, Tunisia and India will discuss many things of common interest at the multilateral during Jaishankar's visit.

WION: How do you see the India-Tunisia ties?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: Since the establishment of Diplomatic relations in 1958, ties between our two friendly countries has grown steadily - both on bilateral and multilateral levels. Today, Tunisia and India enjoy warm and cordial relations founded on mutual respect and trust, Common universal values and principals, and shares apprehensions and views on many regional and international issues and challenges, including sustainable development, climate change, counter-terrorism, and cybersecurity. 

The decisions and recommendations of the 12 sessions of the Tunisian-Indian Joint Committee held in Delhi in October 2017, and the adoption of a visionary “roadmap” on that occasion, are expected to give a new dimension to the Tunisian- Indian partnership in many key sectors and areas of common interest. Today Tunisia-India are stronger, and we are working to make the future even brighter for the benefit of Tunisian and Indian people.

WION: Indian external affairs minister is set to visit Tunisia, what will be the top focus?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: The second official visit of an Indian minister of external affairs to Tunisia since 1958. Dr Jaishankar’s visit to Tunisia will be an ideal opportunity to discuss not only bilateral issues, but also multilateral questions of common interest, in particular in light of Tunisia’s UNSC non-permanent membership in 2020-2021, and India's candidacy to the same seat for 2021-2022. 

So, we are looking forward to His Excellency's visit to Tunisia, and for the high-level meetings he will have in Tunisia, including on the “Fifth session of the Bilateral Political Consultations between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs” to further boost and diversify the areas and sectors of partnership between our two, and for “the 13 session of Tunisia-India Joint Meeting”, to consolidate coordination and concertation between our two countries on regional and international issues of common interest.

WION: Can we expect a high-level visit from either side?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: Definitely, we are always looking for a high-level visit to India, and 2020 could be the year to have such visits.

WION: How do you see India's development aid, India helping in the establishment of soil, water and tissue testing Laboratory in Tunis?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: The establishment of soil, water and tissue testing laboratory project within the India-Africa Forum Summit is just one of the example of Tunisia-India partnership. There are many other sectors where our cooperation is moving forward, including TICs, energy, biotechnology and sciences. With our firm commitment to increase and promote trade, investment and economic between our countries, I am confident that we will be able to make a huge difference in the years to come.

WION: This year, India-Africa summit will take place, what expectations do you have from the summit and have the preparations begun?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: Yes, the preparations for the next the India-Africa Forum Summit is underway. 

We already had a mid-term review meeting of the strategic cooperation framework of Africa-India Forum Summit III in New Delhi from September 11-19 last year. The meeting was attended by representatives from the ministry of external affairs, a delegation from the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and representatives of the African Diplomatic Corps in Delhi. 

Many other meetings will take place to make sure and the next summit will be another success. I would to take this opportunity to commend support that India is providing to Africa’s development, and Tunisia looks forward to working closely with India for the success of the next session to be held in India in September, 2020. And given its rich and solid expertise in many development areas, Tunisia is ready to partner with India for the implementation of the “IAFS IV” development projects in the African Francophone region of Africa in particular.

WION: How are both countries, working together to fight the scourge of terrorism?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: Terrorism is a significant threat to our societies, global peace and security, and to our shared values of democracy, justice, and the rule of law. Like India, Tunisia has steadfastly maintained “zero tolerance” on terror and violence and strongly condemns terrorism, that has hit both our countries hard.

Tunisia’s position is firm and unequivocal on terrorism anywhere in line with its national policy and its international commitments. Today, no state is immune from the threat of terrorism. However rich or powerful, no single country can defeat terror alone or face the current challenges posed today by various terrorist entities. Only through a strong and constructive international cooperation that we can effectively deal with this major danger.

WION: You are part of OIC, as member of OIC, do you think India should be part of it?

Nejmeddine Lakhal: This is India’s decision. Only India can reply to this question.