Former president Kenneth Kaunda wants India’s help in fighting HIV/AIDS.
“India has made significant advances in the development of drugs. I wish to appeal for assistance to us in this region so that we can fight the AIDS pandemic effectively,” Kaunda, the 86-year-old first president of Zambia told visiting Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari when the latter called on him Thursday morning.
Ansari met with Kaunda in his office in a leafy, quiet neighborhood of Lusaka, which was one of his last engagements on the concluding day of his three-day visit to Zambia. He leaves Thursday afternoon for the next stop on his tri-nation African tour to Malawi, where his visit will be the first ever by an Indian leader.
Kaunda, who had been president of Zambia for 27 years, was in a reminiscing mood, recalling his first visit to India over five decades ago.
“My memories are still fresh of my first visit to India as a freedom fighter in 1957,” he said, stating that his aim was then to learn from “our brothers and sisters in India” on their independence struggle.
He was then taken around to various places in India from where the Mahatma Gandhi had initiated his non-violent struggle.
“I must add that I returned home greatly inspired and determined to continue relentlessly with our freedom struggle,” said Kaunda. Zambia finally got Independence in 1964.
Thereafter, he was a close confidant of Indira Gandhi on the international scene, both of whom were leaders of the non-aligned movement. “She was a great human being,” Kaunda told reporters.
After stepping down in the 1990s, he has been involved with a number of charities.
One of his children died from AIDS in the eighties and the fight against
the disease has been his focus through the Kenneth Kaunda Children of Africa Foundation.
“Our efforts (for human development) would come to nothing if we do not address a global issue of concern which is not only a health related issue, but also has serious implications on the economies of our countries,” he told Ansari.
Ansari said that the AIDS epidemic “was not a country-specific or region specific issue”, adding that it could “threaten the future of humanity”.
“It started with a state of denial and then faced with the threat, there is now a very serious concern about it,” he said.
While noting that India has large pharmaceutical companies, Ansari made a special mention of the “very active NGO (non-governmental sector” working in the area of HIV/AIDS in India. He also presented some Indian press clippings on anti-AIDS initiative which “could be of use” to Kaunda.
Just before he left the lush green Zambian capital, he met with several cabinet ministers, from Finance Minister Stumbeko Musokotwane, Commerce and Industry minister Felix Mutati and Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande.
The first ever visit by an Indian leader to Zambia in 20 years saw the signing of an agreement of a $50 million line of credit for constructing a 120 MW hydropower project. India has also offered another $75 million line of credit and a grant of $5 million for projects in the social sector.
Courtesy Indian Asian news