22/06/2015 7:56 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Why Narendra Modi Needs A More Careful Speech Writer

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi rubs his eye as he attends a conference by The Environment Ministry in New Delhi, India, Monday, April 6, 2015. Modi launched Monday National Air Quality Index for 10 cities in India during the national conference. Experts say India's index falls short of international standards by using a formula that downplays how dangerous the air quality is on any given day. (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

NEW DELHI -- There was a startling line in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's media statement on Friday about the state visit of Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. The line was repeated by the PM's Twitter handle as well.

It was this: "My Government has the pleasure of hosting him as the first Head of State from Africa on a State Visit to India."

Wait, what?

How did that patently false line get past the mandarins of the ministry of external affairs, trained to parse every line in a statement? And did it not occur to those who run the PM's Twitter handle that this could not possibly be true?

This is indeed the first state visit by the head of an African state during the Modi government's tenure. But that is not what the sentence says.

There have been at least 10 state visits in recent years to India by a head of an African state. A state visit is a formal visit by a head of state to a foreign country, at the invitation of that country's head of state.

1. President of the Republic of Benin H. E. Dr. Boni Yayi, 2009

President Yayi, accompanied by the First Lady and a 34-member delegation which included three Ministers, senior officials, representatives of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, businessmen and media visited India in 2009. He was invited by then President of India, Pratibha Patil, and held official talks with then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, and met with the Vice-President, External Affairs Minister and the Leader of Opposition.

Then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) shakes hands with President of the Republic of Benin Boni Yayi (L) during his state visit to New Delhi on March 4, 2009.

2. President of South Africa, H.E Mr. Jacob G. Zuma, 2010

President Zuma, accompanied by Mrs. Zuma came on a State Visit to India from June 2-4, 2010. He came with a posse of cabinet ministers, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Public Enterprises, Trade & Industry, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, Transport, and Communication. Accompanying them were also 200 businessmen and other senior officials.

Along with holding delegation-level talks with then PM Manmohan Singh, Zuma also met with key Indian leaders like then Vice President Hamid Ansari, the External Affairs Minister, Chairperson of the UPA Sonia Gandhi, and the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj.

3. President of the Republic of Seychelles, James Alix Michel, 2010

Around the same time, President Michel paid a State Visit to India from 1-3 June 2010, along with Ambassador Barry Faure, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other senior officials and a business delegation. During the visit, India even offered a Line of Credit of US $10 million to Seychelles.

4. President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, 2010

President Guebuza was on a State Visit to India from September 29-October 4, 2010. He was accompanied by cabinet ministers and businessmen, and the two countries signed several Memorandums of Understanding.

5. President of Malawi, Ngwazi Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika, 2010

The next month, President Mutharika was in India on a State Visit from November 2-7, 2010. Accompanied by his wife, cabinet ministers, and businessmen, he signed MoUs with India on health, medicine, rural development, etc.

Indian President Prathiba Singh Patil (R) shakes hands with Malawi President Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika (L) as first lady Callista Mutharika (C) watches during his 7-day state visit to New Delhi on November 3, 2010.

6. President of the Republic of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, 2012

President Toure was on a State Visit to India between January 11-12, 2012, where he met with top Indian political leaders and spoke on bilateral relations, also meeting with business leaders.

7. Prime Minister of Mauritius, Navinchandra Ramgoolam, 2012

PM Ramgoolam was on a State Visit to India from February 6-11, 2012, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. He signed five MoUs with the Indian government, and discussed the growth of bilateral trade between the two countries.

8. President of Republic of Mauritius, Rajkeswur Purryagm, 2013

President Purryagm visited India soon after, in a State Visit to India from 3rd to 10th January the following year, along with his wife and a couple of cabinet ministers. He also visited his ancestral village in Bojeetpore near Patna, as well as Tirupati and Kochi during his State Visit.

President of the Arab Republic of Egypt Mohamed Morsy (L) listens as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh delivers the media statement after a meeting in New Delhi on March 19, 2013.

9. President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy, 2013

The first democratically elected President of Egypt visited India for three days in March 2013, where Morsy and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about climate change, food and energy security and terrorism, as well as India and Egypt's growing trade relationship.

10. President of Republic of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2013

President Sirleaf was the last African Head of State to make a State Visit to India from September 9 to 13, 2013. She was accompanied by a number of Liberian Ministers including those for Foreign Affairs, Finance, Agriculture, Commerce and Industry, Information, Culture and Tourism, Lands, Mines and Energy and Gender development, besides senior Government officials and representatives of apex trade bodies. The Liberian President was even given the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2012 for "for serving as an example and inspiration to women in Africa and beyond and for ensuring the return of peace, democracy and development in Liberia."

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