India-Sudan relations go back in history to the time of the Nilotic and Indus Valley Civilizations (about 5000 years ago). The pastoral Beja, some 5% of Sudan’s population, are a Hamitic people, claiming their origin from India. Their language, spoken from the chest (heart) rather than from the lips, could be related to ancient Prakrit.
There is evidence that by the end of the 12th century, trade via the Red Sea between India and the ancient Nubian kingdoms of Sudan had started growing. Visiting Sudan in the 16th century, the famous spiritual leader Tajuddin Al Buhari stayed with the renowned al-Hindi family of Sufis originally from India (the al-Hindis have been a leading political family in Sudan).
By 1699, Sennar, the capital of the Black Funj Sultanate, traded extensively with India through Sawakin Port in Silk, silver ornaments, leather and gold.
The settled Indian community in Sudan (now about 1500) is about 150 years young. The first Indian Luvchand Amarchand Shah, a Gujarati trader who imported goods from India, is believed to have come to Sudan from Aden in the early 1860s. When his business expanded, he brought his relatives from Saurashtra, who in turn invited their own friends and family. This is how the Indian community grew and developed in Sudan.
From the small towns in the eastern part of the country, (Port Sudan and Sawakin) the early Indian pioneers moved into the interior of the country and settled down in Omdurman, Kassala, Gedaref and Wad Medani.
Bilateral Relations – 1900-1947
The two famous steel suspension rail bridges in Khartoum and Atbara, still in use, were imported from India in the first decade of the last century. Indian experts, starting in 1900, developed Sudan’s forestry sector.
In 1935, Mahatma Gandhi stopped over in Port Sudan (on his way to England by boat) and was welcomed by the Indian community there. In 1938, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru stopped over in Port Sudan on his way to Britain and were hosted to a function at the home of Chhotalal Samji Virani. The Graduates General Congress of Sudan formed in 1938 drew heavily on the experience of the Indian National Congress.
British Indian troops fought alongside Sudanese in Eritrea in 1941 winning the decisive battle of Keren (earning the Bengal Sappers a Victoria Cross for mine clearance in Metemma, now on the Sudan-Ethiopia border).
Bilateral Relations – Post 1947
The first Sudanese Parliamentary elections in 1953 were conducted by Shri Sukumar Sen, India’s Chief Election Commissioner (the Sudanese Election Commission, formed in 1957, drew heavily on Indian election literature and laws).
A Sudanization Committee, established in February 1954 with budgetary support from India for compensation payments finished its work in April 1955. India opened a diplomatic representation in Khartoum in March 1955. In April 1955, the interim Prime Minister of the Sudan Ismail Al Azhari and several Ministers transited through New Delhi on their way to Bandung for the first Afro-Asian Relations Conference.
At the 1955 Bandung Conference, the delegation from a still not independent Sudan did not have a flag to mark its place. Taking out his handkerchief, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote “Sudan” on it, thus reserving a place for Sudan in the international community.
The Sudan Block of India’s National Defence Academy was partly funded with a gift of one hundred thousand pounds from the Sudanese Government in recognition of the sacrifices of Indian troops in the liberation of Sudan in the North African Campaign during World War II). In 1958, India offered a six-acre plot in the Chanakyapuri area of New Delhi for the construction of its Embassy.
In 1993 and 1994, India voted against UN resolutions critical of Sudan, and opposed moves in 1994 to make Sudan compulsorily withdraw from the IMF.
India-Sudan Joint Ministerial Commission
The India-Sudan Joint Committee (formed in January 1995) was upgraded to a Joint Commission at Ministerial level in June 1997 during the visit of Foreign Minister Ali Osman Taha. The India-Sudan Joint Ministerial Commission first met in November 1997 at New Delhi, and again in Khartoum in April 2000. Dates for the third meeting are yet to be finalized.
India-Sudan Foreign Office Consultations
The first consultations between the two foreign offices was held in September 2000 in Khartoum, the second in June 2001 in New Delhi, the third in Khartoum in December 2002 and the fourth in New Delhi in February 2005. The 5th round of India Sudan Foreign Office Consultation was hosted in Khartoum on November 28, 2013.
India-Sudan Joint Working Group on Oil and Gas
The first meeting of the India-Sudan Joint Working Group on cooperation on the Oil and Gas sector was held in Khartoum in November 2010.
1. India donated tents and medicines for flood victims in Gezira state in 1978 and gifted medicines to control the leishmaniasis (kala-azar) epidemic in South Sudan in 1983. We gifted 22,560 tonnes of wheat in 1985 and another 6,000 tonnes in 1987.
2. Following devastating floods in Khartoum in late 1996, India airlifted urgently needed medicines. In October 2003, India announced a grant of US$ 50,000 of medicines for the victims of the floods in Kasala region.
3. In response to the Sudanese government’s request, India offered 20,000 tons of wheat as humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur in March 2005.
4. ONGC Videsh Ltd has donated generously for a school for special children, sports equipment, prostheses etc. In July 2007, at the request of elders of the Shilluk community, and with the endorsement of the Embassy, OVL donated a powerful generator to Kodok town in Fashdoda County of Upper Nile State. In early 2008, India donated tents and medicines worth US$ 100,000 for flood relief in north and south Sudan.
5. On 15 August 2007, the private sector Indian company Angelique International Ltd gifted US$ 5,000 to renovate the Indian school in Kassala town, while OVL has helped to refurbish the Indian Club in Port Sudan. Several Indian companies in Sudan contributed generously for repairs to a school in Kadugli done by the Indian army battalion posted there.
Sudan is a major beneficiary under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme apart from several scholarships offered by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations ICCR). Indian experts also visit Sudan under this programme from time to time.
|Year||ICCR Slots||ITEC slots|
As per the decisions taken during India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS)- II held in Addis Ababa in May 2011, the number of ITEC slots for Sudan has increased to 150 from the year 2011-12. The response of the Sudanese government for ITEC programme has been encouraging. For the year 2012-13, more than 300 candidates were nominated by Sudan. A number of Sudanese government employees are also seeking various training courses offered under Indo-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). Next round of IAFS is expected to be hosted within 2014 in New Delhi.
India also trains Sudanese diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi (Two participants recommended by this Mission for current year) and its petroleum sector technical personnel. Sudanese military personnel undergo training in our national defence institutions at regular intervals.
Sudanese Students in India
There are about 3,000 Sudanese students presently studying in India, chiefly in Pune, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore. Some 30,000 Sudanese are graduates of Indian universities.