India rushes to replace China as main defence partner for Africa

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By Our Special Correspondent

New Delhi, October 18: India has rolled the red carpet for the African countries to explore the prowess of the Indian defence manufacturing, with New Delhi clearly making a bid to replace the Chinese influence in the African continent. With the African countries growing wary of the Chinese debt-trap tactics and unreliable defence equipment, India on Tuesday made the strongest pitch to forge a long-term partnership with the African countries.

Fifty African countries, including 20 Defence Ministers, seven CDS/Service Chiefs and eight Permanent Secretaries participated in the India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD) on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Union Minister for Defence Rajnath Singh outlined at the IADD that the underlying commitment of India and African countries is to explore new areas of convergence for defence engagements, including capacity building, training, cyber security, maritime security and counter terrorism. He termed India and African countries as important stakeholders in ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment, especially in the Indian Ocean Region.

India extended support to the African countries in dealing with the challenges of conflict, terrorism and violent extremism. “India remains united with African countries in their quest for peace, security, stability, growth and prosperity. Our partnership with Africa is centered on the ten guiding principles articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to Parliament of Uganda in 2018. He had clearly stated that Africa will be at the top of our priorities,” said Singh.

While India has been a major contributing nation in the UN Peacekeeping efforts in some of the conflict-torn African countries, China in the previous decades had rushed with its deep pocket to gain influence in the continent. China with control over a few ports from East Asia, Sri Lanka to East Africa is well known to have thrown a ring around India for its strategic gains, which included deployment of spy ships and submarines, while making colonies out of the nations ruled by corrupt regimes with its financial might.

India and Africa share a partnership, which is based on the cooperative framework of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region). Singh invited African countries to explore Indian defence equipment and technologies, stating that India has emerged as a leading defence exporter in recent years.

“Peace, security and development are inter-related. Security is essential for enabling development in the region. We have created a robust public and private defence industry. A defence manufacturing ecosystem has been created in India which has the advantage of abundant technical manpower. Our defence industry can work with you to fulfil your defence requirements,” he told his African counterparts.

The Minister also stressed that India does not believe in a hierarchical world order where few countries are considered superior to others. “India’s international relations are guided by the essence of human equality and dignity, which is a part of its ancient ethos. We do not believe in making or becoming a client or satellite state, and so, when we partner any nation, it is on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect. Forging relations comes naturally to India, as we work towards mutual economic development,” he said.

The Gandhinagar Declaration was adopted as an outcome document of IADD 2022, proposing to enhance cooperation in the field of training in all areas of mutual interest by increasing training slots and deputation of training teams, empowerment and capability building of the defence forces of Africa, participation in exercises and humanitarian assistance during natural disasters. India offered fellowship for experts from African countries through Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis.

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