Rajya Sabha TV programs like ‘The Big Picture’, ‘In Depth’ and ‘India’s World’ are informative programs that are important for UPSC preparation. In this article, you can read about the discussions held in the ‘Big Picture’ episode on “India Africa Partnership” for the IAS exam.
Guests: Dr. T C A Raghavan, Director General, ICWA.
Suresh K Goel, Former Ambassador.
Rajendra Harshe, Visiting Professor, Department of International Relations, South Asian University.
Anchor: Vishal Dahiya
- With 55 countries, Africa is the second-largest continent in terms of both land area and population (around 15%).
- With a combined population of around 33% of the world, India and Africa has a long history of civilizational, cultural, economic and political linkages based on the principle of south-south cooperation.
What is the History of India-Africa Relations?
- Our historical linkages involves the anticolonial, anti-imperial struggles, post-colonial nation building and the influence of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela, Nkrumah, etc. Mahatma Gandhi taught the lessons of peace and non-violence.
- Historical relationship has aided in building confidence and trust in the relationship.
- But it is wrong to remain anchored on historical relations and we need to move further.
- Africa is not a unitary entity but has huge diversity just like India.
- There are a number of opportunities and potential in the relationship.
ICWA National Conference on India-Africa Partnership:
- Recently, the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) organised a National Conference on ‘India-Africa Partnership in a Changing Global Order–Priorities, Prospects and Challenges’
- In the valedictory session of the conference, Vice President of India stated that India and Africa have common interests and vital stakes in each other’s progress, peace and prosperity.
- Three main topics discussed in the conference were:
- How to remodel India-Africa relationship with respect to the rapidly changing global matrix.
- The specifics of India’s dynamic relationships with individual African countries.
- Assessing the status of African studies in India.
What are the Commonalities between India and Africa?
India and Africa has a lot of common issues in the sectors of security, trade, climate change, sustainable development, people to people relations, etc.
- Security Interests:
- Indian PM’s visit to Seychelles, Mozambique, Tanzania, etc. indicates India’s interest in the maritime security in the South-West Indian Ocean region.
- The Indian Ocean framework of India has captured the imagination of Djibouti, etc.
- Two major terror organizations in Africa, Boko Haram (in Western Africa) and Al Shabab (in Eastern Africa) have links with Al Qaeda and Pakistan based organizations like Lashkar e Taiba and Jaish e Mohammad.
- Presence of Somalian pirates is a problem to the whole region.
- There is a growing sense of contest between different countries to enter into security equations with the African Countries. Therefore India needs to keep up to its security imperatives, ensure its security needs are met, maintain its security interests without creating a sense of competition with other countries.
- Economic Interests:
- Some of the African countries are among the fastest growing economies in the world.
- The Agenda 2063 of the African Union focuses on the ambition of the African economies to develop further.
- They want to develop to the level of India in the next 10-15 years.
- They are looking for partner countries to help them in this aspect.
- Africa has huge natural resources such as hydrocarbons, precious metals, etc.
- India and Africa have an asymmetric trade relation where India has an edge.
- India require raw materials such as Uranium (from South Africa), gold, Plutonium, Copper (from Zambia), etc.
- Africa is a market for our finished products as well.
- Africa has Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone communities who speak English, French and Portuguese
- India has good trade and business relations with the Anglophones only, but not with the Francophones or Lusophones.
- Now, multinational firms are not the monopoly of the western countries and Japan.
- India’s business attitude is changing. Private enterprises now thinks that investing outside India is also part of nation building.
- This was a change from Nehruvian model to post reform model.
- Indian private firms like Maruti, Mahindra, Tata, Kirloskar, etc. have investments in Africa.
- Such companies also gain good image to India by doing good business.
- Cultural interests:
- Indian movies released after the economic reforms have earned foreign exchange to the country.
- However, India Africa cultural partnership is not sufficient.
- Indians have a tendency to think that we are a cultural superpower and we are proud of our concepts like Vasudaiva Kutumpakam. But we must recognise that even Africa has rich heritage, since the evolution of the human
- China already has a huge cultural presence in Africa in the form of Confucius institutions.
- Agriculture Sector:
- Agriculture is an area of perfect complementarity between India and Africa.
- We have common issues such as food security, arable land, etc.
- Indians already have large areas of farmlands in Africa. But a much larger scale investment in the sector can’t be managed by private corporations alone.
How Can We Collaborate and Take Care of Each Another’s Interests?
The partnership between India and Africa has a strong traditional and historic base. It is time to build on the common grounds related to culture, security, trade, technology, agriculture, etc.
- Security Interests:
- India’s role should enable mutual advantage and build trust further without the perception of a conflict of interest.
- The relationship should be based on partnerships in specific areas like anti-terrorism, anti-piracy India has a history of freeing ships captured by pirates in the region.
- We need to work together on cyber security and training of armies of the African countries.
- We need to focus on economic cooperation which is vital for securing the Indian Ocean.
- India’s investment in trade, energy and infrastructure sectors should be a part of security collaboration.
- Economic Interests:
- Our trade relations have grown from negligible levels in the 1990s to around $65 billion at present. India needs to further build upon the edge we have in trade relations.
- Earlier meetings have already formulated the modalities for finding synergies with respect to economic growth and industrial partnership. We need to implement and deliver those.
- India and Africa both have a high population of youth who have aspirations in the IT sector. India can drive the IT industry in Africa. Ex.: Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthi’s visit.
- Energy Interests:
- Growing instability in the West Asia is compelling India to look for new avenues in energy security. Hence, we need to enhance energy security by procuring oil and gas from Sudan, Nigeria, Angola, Gulf of Guinea etc.
- Many African countries are part of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
- Cultural Interests:
- India should improve cultural and people to people linkages through Bollywood, Sitar and other traditional music of India.
- Indian diaspora in Africa including English teachers wants to connect with their roots in India. India need to exploit that for building strong linkages.
- Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) need to promote the cultural linkage between India and Africa.
- We should respect the students of African origin studying in India.
- They should become ambassadors of India when they go back to their countries. That will improve the good image of India in their home countries.
- Agriculture Sector:
- We have common opportunities in the agriculture sector like skilled manpower and large market.
- India needs to form a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to promote more investment by Indians in farmlands in Africa.
How can we go forward?
India and Africa already have substantial relations. We need to build on that foundation.
- India needs to move quickly to harness the potential, because other major countries also have renewed interest in Africa.
- India needs to realise the diversity in Africa and look at each African country differently.
- We should learn from each other’s experience. Ex.: India can learn from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) commission’s work against apartheid in Africa. Larger countries like Nigeria, Zaire, Congo, etc. can learn from our federal and democratic form of governance.
- India needs to continue establishing diplomatic and trade missions in every African country.
- High-level engagements need to be more frequent.
- Study of Africa needs to be promoted in India. We can’t embark upon strong bilateral relations without building a strong intellectual and academic foundation.
- We must build collaborations on contemporary issues in economics, investment, infrastructure and human resources.
Read previous RSTV articles here.