At the very outset, I would like to wish all sisters and brothers in Ethiopia and those belonging to the Christian faith in particular, a joyous Christmas celebrations. In India, people may belong to different faiths, but they will proudly celebrate festivals of all religions together. Just like India, Ethiopia is a country of diverse cultures and celebrates its diversity.
On 9 May 1936, when foreign forces entered Addis Ababa, people of India organized mass demonstrations and commemorated "Ethiopia Day" to express their solidarity and support for the people of Ethiopia. A few years later, when India got its independence in 1947, Ethiopia was one of the first countries from Africa to establish diplomatic relations with India.
Ethiopia and India enjoy a vibrant political relationship. Some of the high level visits from Ethiopia included those by Emperor Haile Selassie (1956, 1959 and 1968), Mengistu Haile Mariam (1983 & 1985), PM Meles Zenawi (1985, 2007, 2008 and 2009), and PM Hailemariam Desalegn attended the India-Africa Forum Summit III in New Delhi (2015).
From India, visits included those by President Dr. Radhakrishnan (1965), President Giri (1972), PM Dr. Manmohan Singh for IAFS-II (2011) and President Ram Nath Kovind (2017).
Many young Ethiopians may not know about the famous Harar Military Academy where the officers who graduated from this Academy were considered elite and the pride of this country.
The Harar Military Academy was founded on the lines of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and Indian instructors were deployed at the academy. However, the Harar Military Academy was closed in 1977 during the Ethio-Somali War.
Emperor Haile Selassie had initiated a scheme by which thousands of Indian teachers, mainly from Kerala, were to teach in almost every school in Ethiopia. Few of these teachers are still in Ethiopia and it is very heartening to hear from them that these teachers from India had taught even in the interior parts of Ethiopia.
Perhaps, there was not a single person in Ethiopia, of that generation, who had not been taught by an Indian teacher. Actually, many proudly recall their beloved science or math teacher, who was an Indian. Today, we also have a large number of Indian professors and lecturers teaching in public universities in this country.
India and Ethiopia are growing economies, and we have strong trade and commercial relations. Today, there are more than 600 registered Indian companies in Ethiopia and generating more than 70,000 jobs. These companies are contributing to the economic development and progress of this country.
It is estimated that these Indian companies have licensed investment of over USD 4 billion of which about USD 2 billion is on the ground. Indian companies have invested in various sectors like manufacturing, textiles, agriculture, plastics and pharmaceuticals. Almost 60% of Indian investment is in the manufacturing sector, followed by agriculture (15%). During the last one year, more than 35 Indian investors have shown interest or started their business in Ethiopia.
I have visited Indian factories during the last two months, and I know that many of them are in the phase of expanding their ventures. A pharmaceutical company from India is about to start its productions in this country. This bodes well for two very friendly countries.
India and Ethiopia have a strong development partnership based on mutual understanding and respect, and sense of genuine partnership drawing on the principle of South-South cooperation.
This partnership comprises of capacity-building cooperation through technical training, grants towards support to people and concessional lines of credit of USD 1 billion for projects based on the priorities identified by Ethiopia.
More than 100 years ago, it was estimated that there were about 150 Indian families in Addis Ababa with established business enterprises. Today, we have about 50 families that have lived in this beautiful country for the past 4-5 generations. For all purposes, Ethiopia is their home.
During the last 10 years, more and more Indian investors have joined them in Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a progressive, democratic country that accepts people of all nationalities and faith and the Indian community has been celebrating their colorful festivals in Ethiopia.
At present, the Indian Association and the Hindu Mahajan are the two legal organizations looking after the welfare of the community. For example, the Hindu Mahajan looks after the maintenance of the Hindu crematorium in Addis Ababa. Even people from other faiths have been cremated here.
Recently, Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed and the two leaders reiterated the strong solidarity between our two friendly countries especially during this difficult COVID-19 pandemic. Under their leadership, the relation between Ethiopia and India is moving in the right direction.