Morocco-India Relations Are Looking Up

April 23, Marrakech,  #IBMCSC  #CSCMor10 #IBMCSCMorocco10 #CitizenIBM

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The one thing that strikes you in Morocco is the absence of the Indian diaspora which is otherwise so widespread. Indians are among the top global travelers today but barely twenty thousand Indian tourists make it to Morocco every year. Perhaps, Morocco is under marketed in India. My CSC colleagues and I hail from ten countries but I am the only national that requires a visa to visit Morocco. How do I feel? I find this acceptable since I understand the process of visa issuance is often a reciprocal affair.

Ties with Morocco, however, are on the upswing. In early Feb this year, Morocco was readmitted to the African Union (AU) after the former exited the bloc in 1984. Yassine MEDDAD, our customer at CNEA, puts it aptly “Morocco’s branches are in Europe but its roots are in Africa so there is a re-assessment within Morocco to enhance South-South cooperation”. It is a lesser known fact that India played a role in Morocco’s re-admission to the AU. In October 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi convened what was the third India-Africa Summit. All members of the AU were invited save for the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). India also went ahead and invited Morocco against the wishes of the AU. King Mohammed VI of Morocco himself led the delegation to the New Delhi summit. India helped facilitate the language of the Delhi Declaration which was the cornerstone of Morocco’s readmission to the AU.

The story goes like this. In 1975, Spain granted independence to the Spanish Sahara better known as the Western Sahara. The area of Western Sahara was eventually divided between Morocco and a newly formed state i.e. SADR.  The latter has about 1/4th of the original territory under its control and claims sovereignty of the entire Western Sahara. The balance of the area is an autonomous province but ruled by Morocco. You will observe similar parallels between India’s own Jammu & Kashmir story and that of Western Sahara. The SADR is recognised by the U.N. but is officially recognised only by some 40 odd countries in the world.  In year 2000, India dis-recognised SADR.

So coming back to Morocco India relations, we have seen engagement at multiple levels.  Morocco is a member of the OIC group but it isn’t just politics that’s driving the enhancement of ties. There are economic underpinnings and these are important.  Morocco is among the top 3 global producers of phosphates; India depends on Morocco for a steady supply of phosphates to meets its agricultural sector needs and runs a trade deficit due to heavy imports of phosphates.  In 2015, trade between the two countries stood at $ 1.26 billion, with India importing as much as $ 936 million and exporting $ 326 million. In the three plus weeks I have been here I have come across a Tata Motors showroom but I haven’t seen a single Tata bus nor any Bajaj motorcycle although I have seen several Rangerover SUVs. But that’s a slightly different story. I am also told that many of the Indian chambers of commerce have stepped up ties with their Moroccan counterparts.

There’s more still. When India’s Vice President Hamid Ansari visited Rabat in 2016, pacts were signed for greater cultural exchange and in the area of Information Technology. So, India is helping set up an IT Centre of Excellence in Morocco and C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advance Computing) has been given the mandate to design and execute on the curriculum. This pact is especially significant as Morocco is a leading candidate to provide global delivery of IT services to the Francophile countries.

Last but not the least, several people reminded me how popular Indian movies are in Morocco. The one movie that people keep referring to is Dilwale Dhulaniya Le Jaayenge (DDLJ). Believe it or not, last evening at the night market at Marrakech, one group was playing the title track from DDLJ on the banjo. That leaves me wondering when is it that IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) will decide to host its annual award ceremony here. There couldn’t be a better destination than Marrakech!

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