Political

Interview between Zanzibar Mail and Indian High Commissioner to Tanzania, Binaya Srikanta Pradhan

LAST week, the out-going High Commissioner of India to Tanzania, Binaya Srikanta Pradhan granted an interview to the Zanzibar Mail (ZM) after completing his tour of mission in Tanzania. The following are some extracts of the interview.

ZM: As you approach the end of your tenure as the High Commissioner of India to Tanzania, can you reflect on the key achievements and challenges during your time in office?

 Binaya Srikanta: Reflecting on my tenure as the High Commissioner of India to Tanzania, I take pride in professionally fulfilling the period marked by notable achievements and enriching experiences. I am grateful to have been part of a significant upswing in the India-Tanzania partnership across key domains, including economic, cultural, educational, political and defense.

A standout accomplishment during my term was the establishment of the first offshore campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras in Zanzibar. I was part of the team working on this historic project.

In the economic sphere, trade volumes between India and Tanzania experienced a remarkable nearly threefold increase, surging from $2.3 billion in 2020-21 to an impressive $6.4 billion in 2022-23.

Furthermore, our collaborative water projects in Tanzania, funded through soft credit from India, have surpassed a substantial $1 billion, firmly establishing Tanzania as our largest development partner in Africa.

In the realm of defense, the historic First India-Tanzania-Mozambique maritime partnership and the inaugural joint surveillance of Tanzanian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) underscored the depth of our collaborative efforts in securing the Indian Ocean Region.

Undoubtedly, the pinnacle of my tenure was the highly successful state visit of H.E. President of Tanzania, Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan to India. During this landmark visit, the bilateral relations were elevated to the prestigious status of a Strategic Partnership.

 ZM: Can you highlight the current status and future prospects of bilateral relations between India and Tanzania?

 Binaya Srikanta: The India-Tanzania relationship is currently at an unprecedented high, permeating various domains. I am particularly happy that despite restrictions related to Covid-19 in 2021 and part of 2022, the momentum didn’t slow down.

 Throughout my tenure, we’ve witnessed a robust engagement with about 15 ministerial visits from both sides, a trend expected to continue with the escalating interaction between our two countries. Notably, Tanzania has ascended to become India’s 4th largest trade partner in Sub-Saharan Africa, on track to secure the 3rd position this year, while India retains its status as Tanzania’s largest export market. The growing interest and connectivity demonstrated by Indian investors in Tanzania signify a promising expansion in our trade and investment relationship.

Tanzania has been a focal point for our capacity building program, experiencing a substantial increase to over 700 capacity building slots and 85 long-term course scholarships the highest in Africa. The enthusiastic response from Tanzanian students ensures the continual growth of this partnership.

As significant players in the security of the Indian Ocean Region, India and Tanzania have collaborated extensively, engaging in maritime exercises. This collaborative effort reflects the deepening trust and mutual understanding between the two nations. Looking ahead, we anticipate even greater collaboration as Tanzania evolves into our strategic partner along the East coast of the Indian Ocean.

A deliberate focus on people-to-people contact has been a shared priority for both countries. Two key Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed during H.E. President’s state visit specifically concentrate on this area the Cultural Exchange Programme and Cooperation in Sports. In line with these agreements, we are organizing an India-Tanzania Friendship Run from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo on 30-31 December. Anticipating an increased momentum, such collaborations in the realms of culture and sports are poised to gain traction in the near future. Tanzania is the Partner Country for 2024 Surajkund International Crafts Festival and Tarab Cultural Group from Zanzibar will participate in it.

ZM: Are there specific opportunities for cooperation that you believe both nations should capitalize on in the future?

Binaya Srikanta: I see immense opportunities for cooperation between our nations, primarily in two key areas.

Firstly, the arena of trade and investment presents a vast canvas for collaboration. Given that both India and Tanzania are among the fastest-growing economies in Africa and Asia, the potential for growth in this sector is substantial.

A notable stride in this direction was made during H.E. President’s state visit, where the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) paved the way for the establishment of an Indian Industrial Park near Dar es Salaam. This initiative is designed to attract Indian investors across diverse sectors, ranging from Pharmaceuticals to Agro-Processing, acting as a catalyst to further enhance our countries’ participation in each other’s economies.

Secondly, the field of capacity building and education emerges as another promising area for collaboration. India, with its vast expertise, is well-positioned to contribute significantly, especially considering Tanzania’s demographic dividend and its corresponding need for capacity enhancement.

Additionally, the commitment of 1000 new capacity building slots by India in emerging areas such as AI and the Blue Economy further underscores the potential for fruitful collaboration. With Tanzania placing an increased emphasis on vocational and higher education, India can serve as a pivotal partner in assisting and advancing these initiatives.

When it comes to Zanzibar, the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Zanzibar, offering courses in Data Science & Artificial Intelligence, marks a dawn of new era of collaboration in areas of innovation, technology and education.

I am happy that we are about to complete water supply projects worth US$ 92 million in different parts of Zanzibar which would supply water to about 1 million residents of Zanzibar. We have a significant improvement in number of scholarships from Zanzibar to India in last two years.

ZM: How do you see the prospects of growth of Zanzibar in the coming years?

Binaya Srikanta: I had the opportunity to work closely with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and on several occasions got a chance to interact with the President of Zanzibar, H.E Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi. He has a clear roadmap to develop Zanzibar as a hub of innovation alongside developing the service sector and the blue economy. To be candid, I am truly impressed with the growth of Zanzibar during my tenure here.

From being Spice Islands and an attractive tourist destination, Zanzibar is now emerging as a hub of innovation and technology. We notice several reforms for improving ease of doing business leading to steady flow of foreign investment. We notice good progress in renewable energy, blue economy, port and infrastructure and fintech. I met a group of young people at Fumba town who are working in coding activities for overseas clients. In coming years Zanzibar has the potential to be known as the Innovation Hub of East Africa.

ZM: We noticed that you frequently visited Zanzibar during your tenure. As you prepare to bid farewell to Zanzibar, could you share a personal anecdote or memorable experience from your time as the High Commissioner that has left a lasting impression on you?

Binaya Srikanta: I have visited Zanzibar for more than 20 times in my 28 months stay in Tanzania. One particularly memorable experience that holds a special place in my heart occurred during the inauguration of IITM Zanzibar.

Addressing the audience, I highlighted the establishment of IITMZ as one of the most significant successes of my diplomatic career. What made it truly remarkable and special was when H.E. President Dr. Mwinyi, referencing my remarks in his address, described the inauguration as one of the biggest landmarks of his presidency. He was very generous and it is an indelible memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Besides this incident, I will carry back fond memories of visiting beautiful island of Pemba; meeting welcoming Zanzibari friends in the lanes of Stone Town; watching dolphins and occasionally whales and not to forget the mouthwatering Zanzibari mix.

One thought on “Interview between Zanzibar Mail and Indian High Commissioner to Tanzania, Binaya Srikanta Pradhan

  • Truly nice achievement, Sir, IITM,Water Projects triplicate trading , Shri Jagarnath grant you happiness aways, Best regards, Anant Panigrahi,

    Reply

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