By: Kebba AF Touray
Gambia’s lawmakers yesterday Monday 12th December 2022, ratified the visa exemption agreement between Banjul and New Delhi, for diplomatic passport holders. The ratification came in the wake of a motion tabled by Defense Minister, Serign Modou Njie, on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Minister Momodou Tanagara.
Tabling the motion before lawmakers, Defense Minister Njie told them that India continues to be a strategic and valid partner in Gambia’s development channel.
“This agreement is therefore timely and relevant and will effectively reduce or eliminate travel related challenges that hinders official engagement and exchanges between the two countries,” he said. He remarked that President Barrow hosted his Indian counterpart on a visit to the Gambia from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August in 2019.
“That visit was significant on two fronts, as it was not only a proud occasion for Indians resident in the Gambia, but it revitalized all aspects of our engagements particularly political, economic and people-to-people ties that happily exists between the Gambia and India,” he said; that presently, the partnership cooperation between Gambia and India, is more consolidated and spreading across many sectors of economy.
“In the health sector, the nations have engaged on two path ways, which focus on medical treatment for the Gambians in India and the strengthening of the Gambia’s internal health system, including the application of tele-medicine and traditional health care,” he said.
In agriculture, Minister Njie added that India continues to focus on agricultural financing and expertise and for the Indian business community to invest in this sector.
In the meantime, a pilot project for solar home lighting and water, has been offered to Gambia and other countries by India. The energy initiative is relevant to our development aspirations and is well complemented by the current International Solar Alliance (ISA) Framework Agreement,” added Minister Njie. He recalled that the Government of India had offered the Government of the Gambia an LOC of US$20 million for the rural electrification expansion project, which project he said is completed and handed over to NAWEC.
“We continue to collaborate with our counterparts in India on an IT project which will contribute immensely to the Gambia’s drive to leapfrog into the era of digitization. A capacitated and well resource service, is critical to our development aspiration and the Gambia deeply appreciates the contribution of the Government and the people of India in this regard,” Minister Njie told lawmakers.
In addition to scholarship, he explained that their capacity building alliances includes the Judiciary as well as the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Program (ITEC). On petroleum, he said the Petroleum Ministry has benefited from short term scholarships for staff and line institutions at the University of Petroleum and Energy studies in India.
That currently, the Gambia is actively pursuing other equally significant partnership and collaboration in infrastructure and public works, defense, trade and quality infrastructure including a food testing laboratory and technical assistance from the Indian National Disaster Management Authority, in the areas of infrastructural development and capacity building.
“Under the international relation and to strengthen the ties of corporation that happily exists between our two nations, the Government of the Gambia has requested that India considers operating a High Commission in the Gambia. The Gambia’s Foreign Affairs and the Indian External Affairs Ministry are poised to reinitiate a joint commission for swift the implementation of projects and programs,” Minister Njie told lawmakers.
Taking turns on the motion, Lawmakers who intervened showered their support to the ratification of the motion, noting that among other things, the Bill will address the problems of travel challenges and other burdens that such passport holders encounter.