Maxwell Ranga has been the Ambassador of Zimbabwe to India since January, 2015. Before his posting to India, he held senior government portfolios. In an interview to Sarah Berry, the ambassador speaks about diversity of bilateral ties and how Bollywood has gained popularity in his country.

Apart from cricket, what are the commonalities between India and Zimbabwe?

Apart from sporting links, Zimbabwe and India share a political history and culture, including people. Historical ties between the two countries can be traced back to the era of the Munhumutapa kingdom in the 14th century. Indian merchants then enjoyed strong links with Zimbabwe when they traded in textiles, minerals and metals.

India supported Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle against British colonialism by rendering Zimbabwe the much needed diplomatic and material support. Such support and commonalities of views still subsists in the various bilateral and international forums.

Both countries also share a people as seen in the Indian community in Zimbabwe who play their part in shaping the social, economic and political fabric of Zimbabwe. An Indian community of around 10,000 people is Zimbabwean citizens.

How do you look at political and economic relations between India and Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe and India enjoy cordial political relations which should be complemented by enhanced economic relations through strengthening of trade and investment between the two countries.

Don’t you think much more needs to be done by the two countries to elevate their relationship to a new plane?

Indeed much needs to be done to increase the economic relationship between Zimbabwe and India in order to promote and realise economic development in line with the Zimbabwean agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIM-ASSET). Zimbabwe seeks to attract Indian businesses to go into partnership with the Zimbabwe government by investing in the country’s energy, infrastructure and agricultural sectors. In addition, through Zimbabwe’s Look East Policy, the two countries are striving to deepen bilateral economic co-operation for the mutual benefit of both countries.

How popular is Bollywood in Zimbabwe and who are the popular Indians actors?

Without going into the specifics of actors, Bollywood through Zee TV has made significant inroads into the Zimbabwe entertainment scene. Dubbed in English, this is a favourite part of bouquet of international films watched by many Zimbabwe household.

What is being done by Zimbabwe to promote peopleto-people contacts with India?

Zimbabwe has taken steps to revive the Cultural Co-operation Agreement that was signed between Zimbabwe and India in 1981. Through that, exchange programmes would be enhanced. India’s Technical Economic Co-operation (ITEC) programmes and the scholarship provisions by the Indian government have promoted people-to-people contacts, especially in the education sector.

Do you support India’s candidature for a permanent seat on the UNSC?

Zimbabwe in principle supports India at most international forums although the issue of India’s candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council is tied to the overall reform of the United Nations. Zimbabwe’s position on the reform of the UNSC is guided by the Ezulwini Consensus which is the African position on Security Council reform.

Are the two countries taking any steps to strengthen air connectivity between them toincrease the flow of tourist traffic?

Zimbabwe and India signed an Air Services Agreement which allows airlines from both countries to operate combined services per week in either direction and also operate any numbers of all-cargo services between the two countries. This would no doubt facilitate not only tourism but also investment opportunities between them.