India–Sierra Leone relations
India–Sierra Leone relations refers to the international relations that exist between India and Sierra Leone. India maintains an Honorary Consulate General in Freetown, which functions under the jurisdiction of the High Commission of India in Accra, Ghana. Sierra Leone does not have a diplomatic mission in India.
India opened an Honorary Consulate General in Freetown in 1993. The consulate functions under the jurisdiction of the High Commission of India in Accra, Ghana. Several high-level ministerial level visits have taken place between the two countries. Sierra Leonean Minister of Industry and Transport A.E. Bangura visited New Delhi in November 1998, becoming the first Sierra Leonean minister to visit India. The Speaker of the Sierra Leone Parliament, accompanied by two members of Parliament, visited New Delhi in January 2003. Foreign Minister Alhaji Momodu Koroma and Trade and Industry Minister Kadi Sesay visited New Delhi in November 2005. Koroma visited the country again in January 2007. Several other Sierra Leonean minister and members of Parliament have also visited India.
The first visit by an Indian minister to Sierra Leone occurred in July 2000, when Defence Minister George Fernandes visited the country. The next visit by an Indian minister to the country came also a decade later when Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma visited in January 2009. Bihar's Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi visited Sierra Leone to attend the "Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation" in early 2012. Minister of State for Water Resources Ram Kripal Yadav visited Sierra Leone as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy in July 2015 to invite President Ernest Bai Koroma to attend the third India-Africa Forum Summit. President Koroma visited India to attend the Summit in October 2015, and also held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Bilateral trade between India and Sierra Leone totaled US$124.58 million in 2013-14. India was the among the top 5 exporters to Sierra Leone in 2012, and exported $100.99 million worth of goods to the country in 2013-14. Trade witnessed a decline in the following years due the effect of the ebola outbreak on economic activity in Sierra Leone. Bilateral trade stood at $82.99 million in 2014-15 and $107.73 million in 2015-16. India exported $80.40 million worth of goods to Sierra Leone, and imported $2.59 million in 2014-15. The main commodities exported by India to Sierra Leone are drugs and pharmaceuticals, textiles, eggs, and machine tools. The major commodities imported by India from Sierra Leone are ferrous waste and scrap, wood pulp, waste paper and small quantities of titanium ores.
In June 2010, Bharti Airtel struck a deal to buy Zain's mobile operations in 15 African countries, including Sierra Leone, for $8.97 billion, in India's second biggest overseas acquisition after Tata Steel's US$13 billion buy of Corus in 2007. Bharti Airtel completed the acquisition on 8 June 2010. In January 2016, Airtel announced that it had entered into an agreement to sell its operations in Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone to French telecom company Orange S.A. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but analysts estimated it to be worth $800–900 million. Orange assumed control of operations in Sierra Leone in July 2016. Indian investment firm ABG Group in partnership with Sierra Leone Exploration Mining Company (SLEMCO) discovered an estimated 321 million MT of bauxite deposits in Sierra Leone in 2011.
About 60 Indian NRI/PIO companies are based in Sierra Leone as of December 2016, of which around 20 are trading companies.
India donated 200 military barracks to Sierra Leone in January 2009, which were built by a public sector undertaking. India donated 29 packages of indelible ink in May 2007 for use in Sierra Leone’s presidential and parliamentary elections held in September 2007. India also donated 40,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice to Sierra Leone in June 2008. India implemented the Pan African e-Network Project in Sierra Leone in 2010. India donated $12 million to the UN Trust Fund for Ebola and $50,000 to WHO to help combat the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. An additional $50,000 worth of medical equipment and medicines was directly donated to the Sierra Leone Government in December 2014.
India provided concessional loans of $100 million for the development of commercial agriculture, rehabilitation of the telecom sector, rehabilitation of 6 potable water projects, and a solar street lighting project in Sierra Leone. Two lines of credit worth $30 million and $15 million were provided to develop irrigation and expand existing potable water facilities respectively in Sierra Leone. The Government of Sierra Leone signed an agreement with the EXIM Bank of India in August 2016 to avail a $78 million line of credit to set transmission sub-stations in Sierra Leone.
Citizens of Sierra Leone are eligible for scholarships under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. A group of Sierra Leonean women who attended the ITEC Rural Solar Electrification course at the Barefoot College of Tilonia returned to Sierra Leone and successfully installed a solar energy system in their villages. Sierra Leoneans often visit India to study in the country or to seek medical treatment.
Indians in Sierra Leone
As of December 2016, about 1,400 Indians reside in Sierra Leone, about 500 of whom are in the country on short-term contracts. Most of the community is involved in trade and manufacturing, and some are engaged in the mining and trading of gold and diamonds. There are about 60 Indian-owned companies based in Sierra Leone. The Indian Mercantile Association is the sole Indian community association in the country. The Choithram Trust, run by the Indian owned Choitram Group, operated a charitable hospital in Sierra Leone. There is one Hindu temple in the country, located in Freetown, and managed by a local temple committee.
Four thousand Indian troops served in the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) from January 2000 to January 2001. Major General V.K. Jetley was the UNAMSIL Force Commander, and Brigadier S.C. Joshi served as the head of a 10-member Military Liaison Unit attached to the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Sierra Leone. The Indian contingent of UNAMSIL accounted for 25% of the total strength and were the best-equipped among contributing nations. After serving in the mission for two years, India announced that it would withdraw its military observers and troops from the country in September 2000. The withdrawal was carried out in phases and completed in January 2001.
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