En­gage­ment with Africa is mov­ing from the po­lit­i­cal to the strate­gic

India’s en­gage­ment with African na­tions is steadily mov­ing from the po­lit­i­cal to the strate­gic

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - Shankar Ku­mar

To counter Bei­jing’s ag­gres­sive agenda in the in­dian ocean, new delhi is seek­ing to cre­ate strate­gic bas­tions in mau­ri­tius, sey­chelles and mada­gas­car. The im­me­di­ate provo­ca­tion was China’s in­au­gu­ra­tion of its first overseas mil­i­tary base in dji­bouti, in the Horn of Africa.

only re­cently, new delhi had ex­tended a $100 mil­lion line of credit to mau­ri­tius for buy­ing a mul­ti­pur­pose off­shore pa­trol ve­hi­cle, a deal signed when pres­i­dent ram nath Kovind was vis­it­ing the is­land na­tion mid-march. Fol­low­ing up, it is continuing work on a naval base in the Agalega is­lands, a mau­ri­tian territory ly­ing some 1,000 km north of the main is­land. Ac­cord­ing to sanjay Panda, a joint sec­re­tary on the in­dian ocean re­gion desk at the min­istry of ex­ter­nal af­fairs, the base should be com­pleted by 2021.

In­dian diplo­mats are also con­fi­dent that a naval base on As­sump­tion is­land, a sey­chelles territory, will also come through. Two rounds of talks be­tween the two coun­tries have al­ready taken place: the first was on the side­lines of the in­ter­na­tional so­lar Al­liance sum­mit in delhi on march 11, the se­cond on the side­lines of the com­mon­wealth Heads of gov­ern­ment meet in lon­don on April 19-20. But there is a hitch. The sey­chel­lois par­lia­ment is yet to rat­ify a re­vised pact be­tween new delhi and Vic­to­ria.

In the first week of April, the Sey­chelles news Agency quoted vice-pres­i­dent Vin­cent meri­ton say­ing, “A dec­la­ra­tion will be made very soon to find a fea­si­ble way to build this (naval) fa­cil­ity.” And MEA of­fi­cials say clar­ity about the base on As­sump­tion is­land would emerge when sey­chelles pres­i­dent danny Faure ar­rives in india for a two­day state visit on June 25.

in mada­gas­car, india has a mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion since 2003. neena mal­ho­tra, a joint sec­re­tary at the MEA, says, “mada­gas­car is im­por­tant for india’s se­cu­rity out­reach.” The mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion keeps an eye on ship move­ments in the In­dian Ocean. Of late, India has of­fered sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy to many na­tions in eastern and south­ern Africa. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in an in­for­mal di­a­logue at the in­sti­tute of de­fence stud­ies and Analy­ses (idsa) on march 27, shambhu s Ku­maran, joint sec­re­tary (pol­icy) at the min­istry of de­fence, said, “With the bulk of the east and south­ern African coun­tries, we now have en­abling agree­ments in

place. We have of­fered them some of our spe­cialised mar­itime ca­pa­bil­i­ties. in this re­gard, i would like to men­tion coastal sur­veil­lance radar sys­tems.” Be­sides mau­ri­tius, sey­chelles and mada­gas­car, de­fence agree­ments ex­ist with Tan­za­nia, mozam­bique, Kenya, Ethiopia and Zam­bia in eastern Africa, and the south­ern African coun­tries lesotho, Botswana and south Africa. Ts Tiru­murti, sec­re­tary (eco­nomic re­la­tions) at the MEA, says these re­la­tion­ships have been es­tab­lished in view of a “com­plex set of se­cu­rity chal­lenges” in the African coun­tries. Apart from sup­ply­ing de­fence tech­nolo­gies, india trains mil­i­tary per­son­nel of these coun­tries.

An indo-french mar­itime agree­ment signed on march 11 adds to india’s ties with African na­tions, for it al­lows in­dian ships to use French naval fa­cil­i­ties in dji­bouti, the UAE, and re­u­nion is­land (a French territory in the in­dian ocean, ly­ing to the south­west of mau­ri­tius). says Tiru­murti, “our de­fence en­gage­ment with Africa has deep­ened in the last few years, thanks no doubt to our po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment, which has gone to an un­prece­dented level.”

The pres­i­dent, vice-pres­i­dent, and prime min­is­ter have al­to­gether vis­ited 21 coun­tries from may 2016 to April 2018. Pres­i­dent Kovind has just con­cluded a visit to Equa­to­rial guinea, Zam­bia, and swazi­land (which, in­ter­est­ingly, main­tains diplo­matic ties with Tai­wan and not china). continuing the process, vice-pres­i­dent m Venka­iah naidu will visit the south­ern African coun­tries of Botswana and malawi in oc­to­ber.

An­other in­di­ca­tion of india’s in­creas­ing en­gage­ment with Africa is new delhi’s en­gage­ment with the 15-mem­ber south­ern African devel­op­ment com­mu­nity (SADC), on the side­lines of the first ever india-south Africa busi­ness sum­mit in Jo­han­nes­burg on April 29-30. The two-day busi­ness sum­mit was themed ‘united by legacy, united for pros­per­ity’. The sadc com­prises An­gola, Botswana, congo, lesotho, mada­gas­car, malawi, mau­ri­tius, mozam­bique, namibia, sey­chelles, south Africa, swazi­land, Tan­za­nia, Zam­bia and Zim­babwe.

india was rep­re­sented by union min­is­ter for com­merce and in­dus­try suresh Prabhu at the sum­mit, which fo­cused on health­care and pharma, agriculture, au­toma­tives, min­ing, star­tups and women in busi­ness. overall thrust of the sum­mit was to in­crease busi­ness in­ter­ac­tion and in­crease vol­ume of trade be­tween india and south­ern African re­gion. Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry, india’s to­tal trade with sadc coun­tries wit­nessed nearly 10-fold in­crease from $3.7 bil­lion in 2004 to around $31 bil­lion in 2017.

in­dian in­vestors have pre­ferred Africa. Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry of fi­nance, india’s ap­proved cu­mu­la­tive in­vest­ment in the sadc coun­tries from April 1996 to march 2017 amounted to over $52 bil­lion. south Africa, mau­ri­tius and mozam­bique were top des­ti­na­tions. in fact, sadc coun­tries ac­counted for nearly 93 per­cent of india’s to­tal in­vest­ment in Africa. ongc Videsh has a stake in oil and gas as­sets in mozam­bique. re­cently, mozam­bique ap­proved an ongc Videsh-led devel­op­ment plan for Golfinho-atum nat­u­ral gas field in the Area 1 block of the Rovuma off­shore basin. To ship ex­tracted gas to india, ongc Videsh will set up a liq­ue­fac­tion plant with a to­tal ca­pac­ity of 12.88 MMTPA in this east African na­tion. india has in­vested $6 bil­lion in the Rovuma gas field; it will in­vest an­other $6 bil­lion by 2019-20, a se­nior of­fi­cial of the min­istry of petroleum and nat­u­ral gas said.

African na­tions have also re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from india. As of march 31, 2017, india’s Exim Bank had ex­tended 52 lines of credit worth $3.1 bil­lion to sadc na­tions, mostly for roads, bridges, fly­overs, power transmission lines and other in­fra­struc­ture.

un­der the new po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tion, Zim­babwe wants good re­la­tions with india. its vice-pres­i­dent con­stantino chi­wenga met the in­dian pres­i­dent in delhi on march 23. Be­sides seek­ing india’s as­sis­tance in ca­pac­ity build­ing and hu­man re­source devel­op­ment, chi­wenga also sought india’s sup­port in the agriculture sec­tor. Zim­babwe gov­ern­ment, un­der pres­i­dent Em­mer­son mnan­gagwa, has cho­sen india over china, Brazil and Be­larus for the sup­ply of 500 trac­tors and agri­cul­tural equip­ment. new delhi had agreed to pro­vide them un­der a gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment agree­ment at a min­i­mal in­ter­est rate. Ac­cord­ing to sources, the de­liv­ery of trac­tors will start June on­wards. Zim­babwe has also sought in­creased in­vest­ment from india in cok­ing coal, gold, iron and other min­er­als.

in lesotho, the india-funded Ad­vanced in­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy cen­tre was re­cently in­au­gu­rated in the cap­i­tal maseru. in novem­ber last year, india had sent 500 tonnes of rice to lesotho, which was fac­ing a famine. Talks are on for de­vel­op­ing farm­ing and agriculture in the land-locked south­ern Africa coun­try. it has asked for over 200 trac­tors and other farm­ing equip­ment from india, and sources say de­liv­ery should be­gin soon.

lesotho’s King let­sie iii and Queen mase­n­ate mo­hato seeiso vis­ited india in Jan­uary. diplo­mats who have served in Africa say india never put so much ef­fort in in­creas­ing its pres­ence in Africa as now. on may 21, the cabi­net ap­proved the set­ting up of new mis­sions in 18 African coun­tries be­tween 2018 to 2021. Full-fledged mis­sions will be opened Burk­ina Faso, cameroon, cape Verde, chad, re­pub­lic of congo, dji­bouti, Equa­to­rial guinea, Eritrea, guinea, guinea Bis­sau, liberia, mau­ri­ta­nia, rwanda, são Tomé and Príncipe, sierra leone, so­ma­lia, swazi­land and Togo, thereby, in­creas­ing the num­ber of in­dian mis­sions in Africa from 29 to 47.

An In­dian naval base in the Mau­ri­tian Agalega Is­lands is set for com­ple­tion in 2021. An­other one is likely to come through on the Sey­chel­lois As­sump­tion is­land. The navy also has a func­tional mon­i­tor­ing sta­tion in Mada­gas­car.

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