India is reaching out to African nations in an attempt to bolster its presence on the continent where neighbor and economic rival China has already invested billions of dollars (euros), especially in the oil and energy sector.
The first India-Africa summit is taking place in the Indian capital Tuesday and Wednesday with leaders attending from 14 countries including South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Tanzania, Ghana and Algeria.
The summit is expected to end with the signing of two agreements, one expanding political ties and the other focusing on economic cooperation, India's Junior Minister for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters Monday.
The details of the agreements will be announced at a joint press conference Wednesday, he said.
The summit would "give direction and momentum" to the relationship between India and Africa, Sharma said, calling the meeting "historic."
Two way trade between India and the African continent stands at about US$30 billion (�19.12 billion), having grown six-fold in the last five years, Sharma said.
India says its expertise in information technology and low-cost manufacturing make it an attractive source of partnerships for African nations as they try to modernize their economies.
But India's interest in Africa is also seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the region.
In 2006 China hosted leaders from almost 50 African nations for the first summit between Chinese and African officials, showcasing a vigorous relationship centered around oil and aid.
In the last few years China and India have both bolstered their presence in oil-rich African nations. Last year companies from both countries won in a round of bids for exploration licenses in Nigeria, Africa's leading oil exporter.
China is also Sudan's largest trading partner and absorbs most of its oil exports. Beijing is also the largest trading partner of South Africa, the continent's economic powerhouse.
But Sharma denied that India's interest in the continent was fueled by the rivalry.
"India's engagement with Africa is time tested, different and cannot be compared to any other country," Sharma said. "We are not looking at gains, nor are we seeking to compete with anyone."
Last Mod: 08 Nisan 2008, 15:10