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India's Engagement with Africa ( India's World 10 January 2021)

India's Engagement with Africa ( India's World 10 January 2021)

Context:

Speaking at the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on “Challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts" especially in the African context Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said sought to place in context the instability faced by many African countries and underlined the importance of the role of national governments in ensuring peace and stability in their countries.

Background:

India and Africa have a long and rich history of interaction marked by cultural, economic and political exchanges based on the principle of south cooperation.

Africa is world’s second largest continent both in terms of land and population with 55 countries which account for about 15 percent of world’s population.

In the recent years a number of steps have been taken to further strengthen these relations.

Summary of the Debate

India and Africa:

  • Trade: India’s trade with Africa has grown from 5.3 billion in 2001 to 62 billion in 2018. India’s is now Africa’s third largest trading partner accounting for 6.4 percent of African total trade but China has surpassed USA and it is Africa’s largest trading partner.
  • Grants in Aid: Africa is the second-largest recipient (after South Asia) of Indian overseas assistance with Lines of Credit (LOC) worth nearly $10 billion (nearly 40% of the total LOC globally) spread over 100 projects in 41 countries.
  • Health: India sent number of missions in terms of supply to the African countries to deal with covid crisis. African countries have also acknowledged India’s role in supporting the health concerns within Africa in current times.
  • Investment: There are large Indian investments in gas field, ports, infrastructure and in return India gets energy.
  • Commonalities: India and Africa shared a lot of cultural commonalities.
  • Security Cooperation: India have taken part in largest number of missions and also had maximum number of casualties in Africa.
  • Capacity Building: Whether it is in the sphere of strategic and political dialogue or it is in the sphere of economic development cooperation or in functional and human resource development cooperation, India has heard Africa and has worked with them closely ever since opposing apartheid to seeking their place in International organizations including in the UNSC.
  • Sout-South cooperation: India and African countries have cooperation.

Africa's importance to India:

  • More visit: There has been a focus on Africa in recent years and this focus is very visible that there has been high level of visits to the African countries which was not happening earlier.
  • Economic potential: African countries have a lot of economic potential, just before the covid times, the African countries were one among the top five fastest growing economies in the world.
  • Growth pool: Africa is no longer the dark continent, it is the continent which is the growth pool of the world which has a number of innovations coming out it.
  • Resources: In African countries, there are abundance of mineral resources, abundance of the human resources, very good geographical location, all the sea lanes of communication passing through nearby.
  • Agenda 2063: It is one of the plans which come out from Africa which talks of various priorities whether development, whether it’s security or human resource development.
  • UNSC: Whether it is in the sphere of strategic and political dialogue or it is in the sphere of economic development cooperation or in functional and human resource development cooperation, India has heard Africa and has worked with them closely ever since opposing apartheid to seeking their place in International organizations including in the UNSC.

How to build counter-terrorism ties between India and Africa?

  • Military training: The African military officers are coming in India and doing training.
  • Training academies: There are training academies of India in number of African countries.
  • Counter insurgency: African officers are coming for basic technical courses for the counter insurgency and counter terror operations in India.
  • Peacekeeping missions: In this peacekeeping missions, Indian contingents have performed better. For instance, the mission of Indian women contingent in Liberia have been the most successful missions of United Nation.
  • Aatmnirbhar Bharat: The way India improved the defense production, India could be selling a fair amount of low technological equipment certainly at much lower price.

Way Forward:

  • De-emotionalize policy: We need to de-emotionalize India’s Africa policy because we tend to get very emotional with our past.
  • UNSC reform: There is a need for the reformation of UNSC and this is a common agenda between India as well as the African continent and South Africa is one of the major contenders.
  • Terrorism: Another angle where India needs to collaborate there is, the question of terrorism and the non-state actors, these are common challenges.
  • Economic engagement: A new wave of FDI led economic engagement is required.
  • Investment: India should support the private sector to invest more in Africa and with the Africa continental, free trade area coming in to force this year, a more regional markets will come into place.
    • So, whereas, earlier African producers were looking at European markets for export, today, they can turn inwards and look introvertedly at regional markets in which India can play a much bigger role with them.
  • Larger reach: India has got now outreach to over 40 African countries. So, India needs to focus on its projects in Africa and make sure its quality further improves.
  • Skill: Skill enhancement are other areas which are of priority for India and Africa.
  • Maritime security: Equally important for both the countries.

Important points made by the Guests

Gurjit Singh, Former Ambassador

  • India’s engagement with Africa is one of the success story of India’s foreign policy. It has seen consistent expansion and growing day by day.
  • PM’s landmark visit to Africa during which he announced the India’s Africa policy and its principles articulated what had been done and what is going to be done in the future.
  • Today, the east and southern coast of Africa is part of India’s Indo-pacific policy. It has a new dimension to it. So, when we are going to deal with China or other neighbours, we are going to deal in this construct.
  • China has its base in Djibouti, but India has access to the French, American and Japanese bases.
  • Africans used to tell that China does more but India does better.
  • Africa runs a trade surplus with India and this is because of energy security being diversified by India into a larger number of African solutions.

Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, MP IDSA

  • India cooperation with Africa is demand based, India is not imposing its own priorities.
  • Human resources development has been one of the pillars of India’s engagement with Africa. Africa has a number of young people like India.
  • So, in order to empower the youth, it is important that we help the African countries in terms of human resource development, in terms of providing technical education or enhancing their education.

Maj. Gen. SB Asthana (Retd.), Strategic Analyst

  • Bulk of the United Nation’s missions and peacekeeping missions in stabilization missions, protection of civilian missions, are in Africa.
  • As of today, the UNSC does not represent the developing world, the mandate is being formulated by somebody else, the troops are being given by somebody else and there is a gross mismatch in number of places.
  • The mandate is being set by the UNSC and primarily the P5 and Africa continent does not have a representation in P5.
  • G4 countries (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) also need representation in P5.
  • China never gave troops in UN peacekeeping and they sudden started now because they want to develop profits almost three times, they want to exploit African resources.
  • India is doing better in number of fields including education, lot of teachers are there, tele-medicine, e-network.

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