The range of bilateral security arrangements between India and nations of Africa include training, infrastructural development assistance, peacekeeping, defence agreements, joint naval exercises, defence equipment transfers and hydrography, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury for South Asia Monitor
By Nilova Roy Chaudhury
India will open 18 new diplomatic missions across Africa over the next four years to enhance India’s diplomatic outreach in the continent. The decision, taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 21, will take the number of Resident Indian Missions in Africa from the present 29 to a total of 47 embassies, high commissions and consulates out of a total of 54 countries on the continent.
An official statement said the missions, to be opened over a four year period from 2018 to 2021, will be located in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome& Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland and Togo.
“The decision will enhance India’s diplomatic outreach in the African continent and allow India to engage with the Indian diaspora in African countries. Opening of new missions is also a step towards implementing the vision of enhanced co-operation and engagement with Africa,” the statement said, adding that it was in accordance with commitments made at the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) held in New Delhi in October 2015.
Outlining the reasons behind the decision to raise India’s diplomatic presence in the continent, TS Tirumurti, Secretary (ER) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said India’s security engagement with Africa has reached a point where it is ‘a vital part of our foreign policy.’ India’s recent decision to open new missions in 18 African countries reflects the importance India gives to Africa, he stated.
India and the African continent’s engagement in tackling a complex set of security challenges has deepened in the recent past, largely due to an unprecedented impetus to political engagements between the two regions, Tirumurti said, while delivering a keynote address at the 4th India-Africa Strategic Dialogue on ‘India and Africa: Deepening the Security Engagement’, organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs, on March 27.
India has defence and security cooperation with all littoral states in the Indian Ocean region, including South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar, as well as with countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Egypt and others, Tirumurti said. The range of bilateral security arrangements between India and nations of Africa include training, infrastructural development assistance, peace keeping, defence agreements, joint naval exercises, defence equipment transfers and hydrography.
“Security and development are two sides of the same coin” and maritime security is now a major focus in Africa for India, said Shambhu Kumaran, Joint Secretary (International Security Cooperation) in the Ministry of Defence. India signed a maritime security agreement most recently with Madagascar, during the visit of President Ram Nath Kovind to that country earlier in March.
It was Kovind’s second visit to Africa and, when he reached Madagascar on March 14, on the second leg of his two-nation state visit to Africa and the Indian Ocean Region, it was the first ever visit by a President or Prime Minister of India to that country.
He witnessed the exchange of two bilateral agreements - on defence cooperation and aviation cooperation. The defence agreement between the two countries focuses on friendly visits by Indian ships to Madagascar and capacity building and training of Madagascar’s personnel.
India is offering coastal surveillance radar systems to Madagascar and all the littoral states along the Indian Ocean rim, Kumaran said, as he sought greater African participation in the DefExpo in Chennai in April. He suggested that some of the funds and lines of credit India has made available to Africa could be utilised by the countries to buy Indian-manufactured defence hardware.
Pointing out that Modi mooted SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) while visiting Mauritius, Ruchita Beri, Senior Fellow at the IDSA, said the various recent high level visits between leaders of both sides reiterated the critical importance of the continent and the Indian Ocean rim for India.
Development of the Blue-Water economy is another major reason for advancing the India-Africa strategic partnership.
Commenting on India’s traditional ‘non-prescriptive approach’ towards security matters, Tirumurti said India supported the African Union’s peace and security initiatives within the African peace and security architecture. Speaking of the multi-dimensional threats to security and development in the region, he said that terrorism and other conflicts in Africa have repeatedly disrupted the wheels of progress.
Piracy, cross-border threats, and transnational crimes, including narcotics, trafficking and cybercrimes etc add new dimension to the problem, fuelling instability in the region. Such a scenario called not only for deepening, but also broadening and widening security engagements between the two regions by initiating dialogue on multiple fronts, he said.
The decision to open the new missions gained further impetus with the Indian government’s initiative to launch the International Solar Alliance (ISA), officials said. Most of the countries where new diplomatic missions will be opened fall within the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. These countries form part of the belt of 121 countries which will be part of the global solar development alliance initiated by India.
Among the visitors to India was Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who attended the ISA meeting, and then made a big pitch for Indian investment to his West African nation that is one of the continent’s largest oil producers.
President Kovind, in his meeting, told him that India’s approach to its partnership with Africa was consultative and participatory, and driven by the aim of empowerment, capacity building, human resource development, access to the Indian market and support for Indian investments in Africa.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Constantino Chiwenga was among the dignitaries visiting India for the 13th edition of CII-EXIM Bank Conclave on India - Africa Project Partnership, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) with support of the Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Also participating in the conclave, from March 25–27, were Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Vice President of Uganda and Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of Malawi. Over the last 12 editions, the conclave has seen the participation of eminent dignitaries from across Africa and India, who have actively built bridges to strengthen the growing partnership between them.
While the IDSA’s Strategic Dialogue concentrated on the strategic and security aspects of the India-Africa engagement, the Conclave was India’s largest Africa-focused business event, which has set the stage for identifying several opportunities for India to join hands with Africa, to meet its development needs.
(The author is Editor, India Review & Analysis. She can be contacted at email@example.com)