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India to pay homage at Ethiopian leader’s funeral


New Delhi : Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur will represent India at the Sep 2 state funeral of Ethiopia’s long-time leader Meles Zenawi.

Kaur will be accompanied by senior officials of the external affairs ministry, including Ravi Bangar, joint secretary in charge of east and south Africa, said government sources.

Zenawi’s over two-decade-long prime ministerial tenure saw the blossoming of bilateral relations between India and Ethiopia. He died Aug 20 due to illness at age 57.

His funeral will be attended by a host of African and world leaders.

Zenawi is widely credited for transforming Ethiopia, which was known for famine and disease, into one of Africa’s fastest growing economies. He also carved a niche for himself as the voice of Africa and is known for his peace initiatives.

India is the second-largest foreign investor in Ethiopia with investments of about $5 billion.

Amid accusations by some critics of land grabbing by Indian companies in Ethiopia, Zenawi had famously said that “Indians do not come to colonise, but to help develop Africa”.

In a condolence message, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded Zenawi’s “long and distinguished public service and his contribution towards consolidation of peace, progress and development of Ethiopia and effectively strengthening Africa’s global engagements”.

“India’s close and friendly relations with Ethiopia acquired greater substance under his leadership,” he said.