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Editorial Today – A New Tryst with Africa

editorial-73Issue Prime Minister visit to Africa.

Why this visit is historic  In Mozambique, he will become the first Indian Prime Minister to be present since Indira Gandhi went in 1982.

What bilateral summit signifies India is signalling that it values these countries intrinsically for what they are.

Hallmark of India’s Foreign Policy PM put emphasis on defence diplomacy to boost India’s position as a net security provider for fellow developing countries.

Importance of East Coast for India The east coast of Africa is the flank which India’s expanding naval and commercial strategy needs to be aligned.

Economic Importance of the Visit There is opportunity for both India and Africa.

Challenges in India- Africa Relation Some cynical sections of the Western commentariat club India in the same category as China, i.e. as a mineral-grabber that is out to plunder Africa and denude it of its vast natural wealth.

Element of cooperation between India and Africa We need export markets as we industrialise, and Africa has the youthful demography and the rising purchasing power.

Conclusion

Issue

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on  four-nation tour of Africa from July 7-11.

 

Why this visit is historic

  • In Mozambique, he will become the first Indian Prime Minister to be present since Indira Gandhi went in 1982.
  • In Kenya, he will be the first Indian Prime Minister since 1981.
  • Although Manmohan Singh did go to South Africa in 2013 as Prime Minister, it was in the context of a BRICS Summit and not an exclusive bilateral visit to further one-on-one cooperation.

 

What bilateral summit signifies

  • By undertaking dedicated bilateral missions to key nations of southern Africa, India is signalling that it values these countries intrinsically for what they are.

 

Hallmark of India’s Foreign Policy

  • PM put emphasis on defence diplomacy to boost India’s position as a net security provider for fellow developing countries.
  • The choice of the four nations is a part of a well-thought-out doctrine of giving primacy to the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), whose westernmost edge is defined by these countries.

 

Importance of East Coast for India

  • The east coast of Africa is the flank which India’s expanding naval and commercial strategy needs to be aligned with if it is to emerge as a shaper of stability and peace in the IOR.
  • Thus government purposefully restarted serious defence dialogue with Mozambique in 2015 after years of neglect.
  • Government’s mega-modernisation project of ‘Sagar Mala’, which involves coastal area development, port infrastructure advancement, connectivity and sea-based industrial synergies, is not merely a domestic policy priority but interlinked to our strategic drive to be the defence and logistical partner for Africa’s eastern coast.
  • Already, PM has been to Mauritius and Seychelles;two pivotal African countries off the mainland  and ramped up India’s security assistance there.

 

Economic Importance of the Visit

  • There is opportunity for both India and Africa.
  • ‘Make in India’ campaign has made the whole of Africa excited as Chinese economy is in slowdown and its absorption rates for African minerals at a low point, African governments and people are on the lookout for an alternative big Asian power that can generate steady export revenues for them and also help them industrialise. India appears to many Africans as a preferred, democratic partner whose outreach is not totally state-driven (unlike China) and whose private sector is increasing its footprint on the continent.
  • India’s interest in connecting Indian agribusinesses with African nations for food security, and also in joint exploration and harnessing of energy sources, is a big draw in Africa.

 

Challenges in India- Africa Relation

  • Some cynical sections of the Western commentariat club India in the same category as China, i.e. as a mineral-grabber that is out to plunder Africa and denude it of its vast natural wealth.
  • India has to prove them wrong by not only offering more novel schemes that bring Indian technical and educational expertise to Africa but also by showing how co-dependent India and Africa are in the twenty-first century.
  • For this PM had sent a message to the continent ahead of visit that “we are not here to exploit” and “we want to be partners in development.”

 

Element of cooperation between India and Africa

  • We need export markets as we industrialise, and Africa has the youthful demography and the rising purchasing power that will eventually take our two-way trade from $72 billion to $700 billion or more.
  • Unless Africa grows in wealth, stability and confidence, we will be handicapped.
  • Unless Africa is with us on the big crises facing the planet, we can never turn into a great power in world politics.
  • Our fates are thus intertwined not just due to geography, identical views at the United Nations or common historical experiences as colonised people, but also because of the fundamental complementarity of the future that awaits both sides.

 

Conclusion

  • China has been trumpeting its South-South cooperation model as a resounding success in Africa. But the absence of a human resource component, a transparency element, and a social sector or democracy angle in that model means that India has an indispensable place on the continent.
  • We already enjoy a special place in the hearts of African people going back centuries.
  • What PM’s visit to the continent can do is to embed India in the futuristic minds, pocketbooks and dreams of Africa.
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  • Sonny Ethan

    Beautifully written article. Thank you FORUMIAS????