India and Africa Partnership in the twenty-first century.

India and Africa Partnership in the twenty-first century.

India Africa relationship

-Amb. Manju Seth

India and Africa share historical ties and many commonalities including a colonial past. Civilisational links between the two have served as the bedrock to deepen their engagement, especially after India’s independence. Many African countries were inspired by India’s non-violent struggle for independence and began their quest to rid themselves from the yoke of colonialism, and later from the scourge of apartheid, drawing from India’s experience. The African continent, straddling India’s neighbourhood in the Indian Ocean, comprises 54 nations with a population of around 1.1 billion people and, like India, faces common threats including poverty, illiteracy, hunger, terrorism and the pernicious effects of climate change. As India gradually becomes an important player in world affairs, Africa too is changing and reasserting itself as an active participant in global affairs; Africa is no longer content to be on the sidelines of important international discussions and is increasingly more in control of its destiny. India and Africa are at a crucial point in history and together they can shape outcomes on the many global universal issues facing the world in the twenty-first century. Africa, with its vast reserves of natural resources ranging from key minerals, coal, oil, gas, etc. has seen major countries such as the US, Europe, China, Japan and India vying to invest in and capitalise on the huge resources in Africa. More and more, African leaders are able and willing to negotiate the best deals for their respective countries leading to rapid economic growth in those countries, which in turn has led to igniting aspirations among the people, especially, the youth who are now holding their leaders accountable for their actions. However, not all countries in Africa have been that fortunate and their leaders continue to take decisions not always favourable for their countries. But this is changing and India can play an important role in nudging these countries to adopt more democratic and transparent practices and share its experiences, given the general goodwill it enjoys in most countries in Africa. India and Africa have been steadily deepening their relationship including in trade which was $ 52 billion in March 2016-17 and growing rapidly, though well below Africa’s trade with China, which has been an aggressive investor and trader in Africa. While India seeks to accelerate its investments in, and trade with, Africa, its actions have, by and large, been guided by more altruistic motives. India’s approach was to promote South-South cooperation and contribute to African capacity building through training programmes, to set up power and IT infrastructure through Lines of Credit, boost agricultural production, etc with the ultimate aim of enhancing the ability of the African people to be able to stand on their own and help their countries to grow economically and eventually to move away from the dependency mindset. Undoubtedly, underlying this approach was the intent to create goodwill for India and create a constituency of friends in Africa. In recent years, many Indian companies have been investing in Africa, creating local jobs while catering to India’s energy security needs and requirements for raw materials. Overall, it has been a mutually beneficial relationship. At the same time, Africa has been seeking to maintain a balance between the East and the West and has been looking to India to emulate its developmental path. Africa would like to learn and benefit from India’s developmental model as also its frugal engineering strategy in manufacturing, agricultural productivity, defence, etc. India has been cognisant of this and responded accordingly through implementation of projects chosen by the
African side. The last India- Africa Summit in November 2015 set the course for the way forward and identified the areas for enhanced cooperation. It is imperative that both sides work closely to fight the ubiquitous threat of terrorism that plagues both India and Africa and together end piracy and ensure maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. There is immense untapped scope to collaborate in the areas of the green( agriculture ) and blue(marine) economies. India and Africa have realised the need to strengthen cooperation across the board and find solutions to the many challenges faced by both and have renewed their efforts in this direction. However, it would be important for India to keep in mind that a one size fits all approach to each African country would not be the most efficient way and policies and action would require being tailored and adapted suitably to individual countries to ensure win-win outcomes in each case. As the first quarter of the 21st century unfolds, the India- Africa partnership is steadily strengthening in all areas and is headed in the right direction. Both India and Africa will together play a pivotal role in shaping the 21st century and in ensuring a more equitable and balanced world order which will provide an enabling environment for every developing country to reach its potential and raise economic, educational and health indices in their respective nations, while simultaneously working towards peace, ending terrorism and leading sustainable lifestyles. Utopian prognosis, many would say but not unthinkable and is very much in the realm of the possible! Once both India and Africa, comprising around 1/3 rd of the world population, decide to work together, drawing on their respective strengths especially in the area of sustainable development based on elements of traditional knowledge available both in India and Africa, including that of living in harmony with nature, the outcomes would be truly transformational. In addition, implementing environmentally friendly technology, following renewable energy paths and learning from their past mistakes/missteps as also those of the developed world, it would be the India-Africa partnership that would shape the future and chart the course of the 21st century.

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