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 then Foreign Minister Ali Osman Taha to India when the first Joint Committee at Ministerial level was held in New Delhi. The second meeting was held in Khartoum in April 2000. The third round of India Sudan JCM was held in New Delhi on 20-21 February, 2017 and was co-chaired by MOS(MJA) from the Indian side and Prof. Ibrahim A. Ghandour from Sudanese side.
India-Sudan Foreign Office Consultations
Foreign Office Consultations between India and Sudan have been held regularly with the first taking place in September 2000 in Khartoum. The 6th round of India Sudan Foreign Office Consultations were held in Delhi on December 11, 2014 and the 7 th FoC’s were held, on 21 December, 2016 in Khartoum. The 7 th round of FOC’s were led by JS(WANA) from the Indian side and Director General, Regional and Bilateral Relations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Sudanese side.
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.
As per the decisions taken during IAFS- III held in New Delhi in October 2015, the number of ITEC slots for Sudan has increased to 200 from the year 2016-17. The response of the Sudanese government for ITEC programme has been encouraging. For the year 2015-16, 147 candidates were sent from Sudan, whereas during the year 2016-17, 191 candidates from Sudan attended the ITEC courses in India. A number of Sudanese government employees are also seeking various special training courses offered under 3rd Indo-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) which includes specialized training courses in Agriculture, Irrigation, Water resources, Renewable energy, Information Technology etc. It may be mentioned that 10 Scholars from Sudan have been selected for the prestigious CV Raman Fellowship Programme during the academic year 2017- 18, which is being implemented by Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India, through Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) under IAFS-III. The details of ITEC slots offered to Sudan are as follows:
|Year||ICCR Slots||ITEC slots|
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.