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Johannesburg (South Africa) September 27 (ANI): India aims to expand its engagement with Africa, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh said on Wednesday while addressing the 9th BRICS Parliamentary Forum in Johannesburg.

The theme of the conference is 'Harnessing Multilateralism and Parliamentary diplomacy to deepen BRICS and Africa Partnership for accelerated implementation of the Africa Free Trade Agreement.'BRICS is a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Emphasising on the close relationship between India and Africa, Harivansh stated that the long-standing relations between the two countries have been bound by historical, geographical and economic ties, according to an official statement.

He also added that trade relations between the two countries have strengthened over the past few years.

"India's bilateral trade with Africa has already reached US 98 billion in 2022-2023. India also offers a huge market for African commodities and products. Through the 'Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme', which extends duty-free access to 98.2 per cent of India's total tariff lines, India has opened its market to African countries. And, so far 33 LDC African nations are entitled to get benefit from this scheme," the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman said.

He also underlined India's support to Africa with the recent inclusion of the African Union as a permanent member of the G20.

"From development partnership, digital literacy, agriculture, clean and efficient energy, climate change, combating terrorism to ocean security, India aims at expanding its engagement with Africa," he added.

Harivansh also lauded the effort of BRICS to be more inclusive. "India cherishes the BRICS spirit of equality, openness, inclusiveness, consensus, mutual respect and understanding. BRICS, representing the interests of developing countries, have repeatedly demanded greater democratization of the global governance system, and for reforming the international organisations such as the UN Security Council, WTO, etc".

"We in the BRICS have demonstrated this by our action; We have invited six new members to join the Group," he said.

Apart from the thematic discussion, other topics to be taken up in the forum are regional integration through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and the transition to clean energy. The Deputy Chairman will also be participating in the discussion on climate change and legislative mobilisation.

(ANI)

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