By gifting a malnutrition-torn Rwandan village in Africa, PM Narendra Modi has caught international diplomacy by the horns. India’s soft power is now not just Bollywood or yoga, it is also the cow, one of the central symbols of our civilisation.

Modi, who is on a five-day three nation tour to Africa and who has become the first Indian premier to visit poor Central African nation of Rwanda, donated 200 cows to a programme of national economic rejuvenation centred on cow rearing.

Called Girinka, the flagship scheme launched by Rwandan President Paul Kagami entails one cow per poor family of the country and India is extending a helping hand there.

As a result of the genocide of 1994 almost 90 per cent of the country’s cattle wealth was killed, either in an attempt to destroy the cattle-rearing culture of minority Tutsis or to feed hungry mouths. Therefore, it is part of a strategy to rebuild the national cattle herd from an insignificant level. 

 “The Girinka Programme is helping transform the lives of people across rural Rwanda. I also told President Paul Kagame about the initiatives we are taking in India for the development of our villages,” PM Modi said in Rwanda.

The program was set up with the central aim of reducing child malnutrition rates and increasing household incomes of poor farmers.  Under the Girinka model, a cow brings nutrition, sustenance and employment, providing a stable income for a family and is a source of soil nutrients through manure to assist small-scale cropping. 

In a reminder of ancient Vedic days of India, Rwandan society counted individual wealth in terms of cows a person owned. Cow then became the centre of genocide as minority, but politically dominant Tutsis owned most of the cattle wealth of the country, a result of the Colonial past of divide-and-rule. To date, over 2,03,000 families have benefited from the programme.

Moreover, India is competing with China in Africa. Chinese footprint in the continent is ever growing as it is the largest trading partner of Africa and established its first military base in the Horn of Africa country of Djibouti.

According to the Ministry of external affairs a defence cooperation agreement will be penned between the two countries two lines of credit—one of $100 million for development of industrial parks and Kigali special economic zone (SEZ), and another one for $100 million for agriculture and irrigation.