India and Benin have friendly ties by virtue of shared principles of democracy and secularism
In a significant move to bolster bilateral relations, the third round of Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) between India and Benin was held from June 24-25, 2024, in Cotonou, the capital city of Benin. 

The Indian delegation was led by Sevala Naik Mude, Additional Secretary (Central & West Africa) from the Ministry of External Affairs. The Beninese delegation was headed by Frank Armel Afoukou, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Benin. 

This consultation aimed at reviewing and enhancing various aspects of the bilateral ties between the two nations.

Comprehensive Review of Bilateral Relations

According to information released by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), during the consultations, both sides conducted an extensive review of their bilateral relations. 

"During the FOC, both sides reviewed the bilateral relations including political, trade & economic, defence, development partnership, capacity building, cultural relations etc., and discussed ways to further strengthening the bilateral ties between the two countries. Both sides also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest and agreed to enhance their cooperation in the multilateral fora," the MEA said on Wednesday (June 26, 2024).

India and Benin have friendly ties by virtue of shared principles of democracy and secularism, the MEA noted. 

Both nations have consistently supported each other in international forums, exemplified by Benin's backing of India's bid for a Permanent Seat in an expanded UN Security Council during the visit of former President Boni Yayi to India in March 2009. This support highlights the strong diplomatic ties and mutual respect that underpin their relationship.

A significant focus of the consultations was on further strengthening economic and trade ties. Bilateral trade between India and Benin has been on a steady rise, with trade figures reaching USD 1.34 billion during the 2022-23 fiscal year. This growth reflects the increasing economic interdependence between the two countries.

Indian investments in Benin have also seen a notable increase. Around 90 Indian or Indian-owned companies are currently operating in Benin, primarily in sectors such as automobiles, textiles, and food processing. These investments not only contribute to the Beninese economy but also help in creating employment opportunities and fostering economic development.

Both sides placed a strong emphasis on promoting developmental cooperation and capacity building, aligned with the spirit of South-South cooperation. This collaboration aims to leverage India's expertise and resources to support Benin's developmental goals. Initiatives in this area are expected to enhance the capacity of Beninese institutions and contribute to sustainable development.

Capacity building efforts have been a cornerstone of India-Benin relations. India has been providing training and scholarships to Beninese students and professionals under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme. This initiative has helped in building human resources in Benin, further strengthening the bonds between the two countries.

Cultural relations were also a key topic during the consultations. Both nations have a rich cultural heritage and have been working towards enhancing cultural exchanges. These exchanges play a crucial role in promoting mutual understanding and respect between the peoples of India and Benin. Collaborative cultural projects and events are being planned to celebrate the cultural diversity and strengthen the cultural ties between the two nations.

In addition to bilateral issues, both delegations exchanged views on various regional and global issues of mutual interest. The discussions highlighted the need for enhanced cooperation in multilateral fora to address global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, and sustainable development. Both India and Benin reaffirmed their commitment to working together on these issues, leveraging their collective strengths and shared values.

The third round of Foreign Office Consultations concluded with both sides agreeing to hold the next consultations in New Delhi at a mutually convenient date. This decision offers a chance for both nations to maintain a continuous dialogue and work collaboratively to strengthen their bilateral relations.