Zimbabwe's Marange diamond field in the east of the country has generated much controversy in the West based on allegations of human rights abuses and illicit dealings in rough diamonds, but China and India are in hot competition for preferential rights to cut and polish the precious stones coming out of the Southern African country.
Defending its position as top global diamond polisher against an emerging challenge by China, India has offered to train young Zimbabweans in diamond cutting and polishing in return for a guaranteed flow of Marange diamonds.
A diamond conference this past week in Mumbai, India, revealed strong interest in Zimbabwe diamonds by banks and industry players in the Far East, sources who attended the conference said. The Indian diamond industry was said to have guaranteed Zimbabwe US$100 million a month in revenues for its rough stones.
Two European banks, ABN Amro and Antwerp Diamond Bank, said they would not fund Marange mining operations due to Western concerns over the zone. Mines Minister Obert Mpofu responded by threatening to impose reverse sanctions on the banks' clients, excluding them from access to the flow of Marange alluvial diamonds.
A report on Mineweb.com said Indian firms worry that the Chinese will overtake them if their government does not rise to the occasion and compete shoulder to shoulder with China in Africa.
The Chinese have set their sights on the global diamond market and hope to cut into India's 80 percent share of the world's diamond cutting and polishing business, the mining website says. The Chinese have officially denied any such intentions, Indian cutters, most of whom are based in Gujarat state, direct attention to the Chinese efforts to secure a steady supply of the uncut gems from the African continent, eliminating middlemen in Antwerp and Israel.
Indians say China is courting African nations by supporting health care systems and building infrastructure.
Affirmative Action Group President Supa Mandiwanzira, one of the Zimbabweans attending the conference, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira he was overwhelmed by the interest in Zimbabwe’s diamond riches.
Economist Prosper Chitambara says competition between China and India for Zimbabwean diamonds has the potential to energize the diamond industry in the Southern African country.