After singing three important agreements for cooperation in various fields, Vice President Joyce Banda said that India and Malawi can work together to explore uranium sites as her country has huge deposits of the mineral.
"We have discovered Malawi has huge deposits of uranium. We can work with Indian government to explore other sites of uranium deposits," Banda said replying to a query on what kind of assistance it wants from India in exploring the mineral deposits.
In her speech, Banda sa
id while India has proposed a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of coal resources, Malawi is proposing that the scope of the MoU should be expanded to include development of other mineral resources such as uranium, which is an important source of energy.
"What is paramount for Malawi is energy security. Mining of uranium is just a component of energy. Uranium is just a part of the larger picture," she said.
India and Malawi also signed three agreements in fields of agriculture and allied sectors, small and medium enterprises and Protocol on Foreign Office Consultations, during Vice President Hamid Ansari's visit to this country.
The agreements aim at giving a fillip to setting up new industries in Malawi, promoting marketing of agri products, animal husbandry and micro processing.
Banda said there are four specific areas in which Malawi is seeking India's cooperation for energy listing coal, water and wind energy as the other components besides uranium.
"Malawi has good mineral resources in which we are interested but there are things, which are being examined in some depth," Ansari had said before embarking on his three nation visit on Jan 5.
Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs Vivek Katju, who later briefed reporters regarding the agreements and discussions between the two countries, however evaded a direct reply on the issue.
"They have energy resources and they view this (uranium) is also a part of their resources," he said when asked about the offer of the Malawian side on it.
To a question on how India responds to the offer, Katju said, "the country indicated that it is ready and willing that there should be cooperation across the board in energy sector like in all other sectors".
Uranium production began in Malawai from its Kayelekera mine owned by Paladin Energy of Australia in September 2009.
The first uranium exports from the country took place in mid-October to Canada.
Katju said India is discussing with Malawi an MoU on cooperation in mineral resources, which it hopes to finalise in the coming months.
Later in a joint communique, Malawi thanked India for its development assistance made available mainly through the EXIM BANK, Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme, and the Commonwealth African Assistance Plan.
It also expressed satisfaction on granting of duty free access on various products within the framework of the Duty Free Tariff Preference Scheme for Least Developed Countries, announced at the India-Africa Forum last year.
The communique said that the two countries agreed to expedite negotiations to finalise proposed MoUs on mineral resources, exemption of visas for holders of Official and Diplomatic passports, rural development, health and medicine.
They agreed to sign the remaining MoUs during the next high level visit.
The two countries also agreed to establish a joint implementation and monitoring mechanism to ensure expeditious implementation of agreements and MoUs.
Besides uranium exploration, the Malawi government also sought India's support in development of hydro-electric power stations in identified sites, coal-fired power generation, bio-fuel and development of potential mining sites of coal.
Asked about China taking up a number of construction and infrastructure projects in Malawi recently, Banda said: "Being a sovereign state, we have a bilateral relationship with China" but added that Ansari's visit gives an opportunity to enhance bilateral relations with India.
She also sought Indian investment in Nsanje World Inland Port project and said her country was keen that India re-opens its diplomatic mission in Malawi, closed since 1993.
"The growing cooperation between the two countries necessitates a review of the situation on part of India, since on our side we opened a mission in New Delhi in January 2007," Banda said.
Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs indicated that India is open to the idea but maintained such decisions are generally need based.
Banda also thanked India for announcing assistance worth 55 million USD to the southern African country.
Ansari had yesterday announced extending a Line of Credit of USD 50 million for Malawi to support its development goals besides giving USD 4 million in grants to support Malawi's development in agriculture, health and education sectors.
Ansari said like all relationships, the "historical" ties need "to be renewed and re-invigorated... there is a desire on both sides to put substance into the relationship".
Earlier in the day Ansari paid homage to Malawi's first president Hastings Kamuzu Banda at his mausoleum here.
Katju said the Malawi government also sought India's help in promoting pharmaceutical development in Malawi.
Meanwhile, sources in the MEA said India's handling of the bilateral relationship with Malawi will not be based on what relations the later has with any other country.
"There is recognition in Malawi that India has developed capabilities and now there is a desire that the partnership between the two countries take a concrete shape... our role in capacity building is a very important component of our foreign policy," a senior official said.
China has been taking interest in the recent past in the mineral-rich African nation.