India and Ethiopia set to finalize stalled deals

New Delhi: India and Ethiopia are set to finalize stalled agreements on visa waiver and sister-city projects, according to people aware of the matter. In 2021, the two countries signed an agreement to waive visa requirements for holders of diplomatic passports.

According to the people cited above, these agreements were stalled for over two years as Addis Ababa focussed its energies on fighting a civil war.

The situation has now changed. In November 2022, Addis Ababa signed a truce with rebel forces and brought the conflict to an end. As peace takes hold. Ethiopia is now looking to refocus from domestic crises to the wider world.

According to the people cited above, a number of agreements between India and Ethiopia delayed by the war are set to be finalised in the coming months. Sources expect the visa waiver agreement to go into force in the very near future.

India’s diplomatic support for the Ethiopian government during the civil war has been an important factor propelling the relationship forward.

During UN Security Council debates on the civil war, New Delhi adopted a position that closely backed Addis Ababa in its efforts to end the war.

In 2021, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, India’s then-Permanent Representative to the UN, praised Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s declaration of a ceasefire and called out “the continuing aggression and belligerence of one side,” in reference to the rebellious Tigray forces. Ambassador Tirumurti also urged the international community to channel humanitarian aid to Ethiopia as the war displaced close to 2.7 million people.

India also chose not to criticise the Ethiopian government on key controversies, given allegations of human rights violations by government forces in their fight against Tigray rebels. New Delhi also steered clear of controversy when Ethiopia expelled UN officials from the country for interfering in internal affairs, an allegation that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hotly contested.

Ethiopia’s longtime Ambassador in New Delhi, Tizita Mulugeta, expressed appreciation for India’s support for her government’s position at the UNSC.

Even as the war escalated, New Delhi continued high-level political contacts with Addis Ababa. Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, and external affairs minister S Jaishankar met in 2021.

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