India contemplates another USD 300 mln for railway project

Following Ethiopia’s application for another three hundred million dollars loan for its ambitious railway project,

India responded by saying  “we will do whatever we can,” including considering approving an additional loan, said a senior Indian official visiting Addis Ababa for the second India-Ethiopia foreign office consultations.
India has already inked a loan agreement worth 300 million dollars for a railway project linking Ethiopia and neighboring Djibouti which rents a port for Ethiopia’s landlocked but growing economy. However, the loan from New Delhi is yet to be disbursed for the beneficiaries.
“The support to the railway is part of India’s support for regional integration in Africa. This is the first time we are doing a project which covers more than one country, that is why we are going through the procedures rather carefully,” said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Additional Secretary, Ambassador Gurjit Singh, in a exclusive interview with Capital.
According to Gurjit, the 300 million dollar disbursement will depend on how the project is implemented, which is in the hands of the Ethiopian and Djiboutian railway corporations. “We are just facilitating and working with them on the feasibility study and from that we will discover how our part of the implementation will come through. Once all that is settled and the project goes on stream, we see no difficulty in periodic and timely disbursements,” added Gurjit.
The government’s economic plan sets an ambitious target of constructing a 2,395Km national railway network out of which 1,808Km is prioritized to be completed by 2015.
While India has pledged to lend the 300 million dollars for the national railway project, the Export and Import Bank of China is financing 85 percent of the cost of the Addis Ababa light railway network estimated at 490 million dollars.
The financing of the overall railway network is yet to be totally secured and Transport Minister Diriba Kuma told Capital back in March that Ethiopia is hoping another 300 million dollars will come from India.
“At the highest level India has expressed a commitment to the project and whatever India can, we will try and do. But all these possibilities are based on technical discussions; so the political commitment is there but we have to make sure the technical discussion goes through smoothly and they lead to practical implementation. That is what we are now focusing on,” said Gurjit. Ethio-India has seen an “exemplary” relationship in the recent past, according to Gurjit who served as India’s Ambassador here.
With more than 700 million dollars lines of credit extended from New Delhi to rural electrification and sugar production expansion projects, since 2006 Ethiopia is the largest recipient of India’s lines of credit in Africa, said Gurjit.
The second India-Ethiopia foreign office consultations were held on 24 January 2012 in Addis Ababa to discuss the follow up of decisions taken at India-Africa Forum Summit and at the bilateral meetings with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. 
In this first meeting after Singh’s visit to Addis Ababa in May 2011, the Indian delegation was led by Gurjit and the Ethiopian delegation was headed by Arega Hailu, Director General of the Asia and Oceania Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia.  
The two sides discussed implementation of decisions taken under the India-Africa forum Summit I & II including about the establishment of four capacity building institutions in Ethiopia at bilateral and regional levels which include a Vocational training Centre, IT Centre, Women’s Solar Engineering Vocational training centre and a Farm Science Centre. 
According to a statement from India’s mission here, the two delegations agreed to propose that the next Joint Commission meeting be held in 2013.  
Gurjit also met Ambassador Berhane Gebre-Christos, State minister for Foreign Affairs, to discuss bilateral, multilateral and regional issues.