India working with African states to counter threat of terrorism: Jaishankar
New Delhi: India has been cooperating with African countries to counter the “expanding threats” posed to their societies by radicalism and terrorism and the two sides are expected to hold the second defence ministers’ conclave, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Tuesday.
Besides cooperating in defence and maritime security, India and the African countries must jointly respond to a “volatile and uncertain world” in the aftermath of disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the knock-on effects of the Ukraine conflict, he said.
Jaishankar made the remarks while addressing an event organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs to mark the release of the book India-Africa Relations: Changing Horizons by former ambassador Rajiv Bhatia. India’s connections are particularly strong with societies on Africa’s eastern coast and were nurtured by the monsoon-driven eco-system of the Indian Ocean, he said.
“We are very conscious of the expanding threats posed by radicalism and fundamentalism and terrorism to African societies. These have been the subject of our contemporary agenda of cooperation,” Jaishankar said.
The first India-Africa defence ministers’ conclave, held in February 2020, institutionalised defence cooperation between the two sides. The second edition of this defence dialogue was proposed for March this year but was postponed due to unavoidable circumstances. Jaishankar was hopeful that it will be held soon.
He described the ongoing cooperation in defence and maritime security as a natural extension of ties between the two sides, and said India has been associated with establishing defence institutions in Nigeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Indian military training teams have worked with counterparts in Botswana, Lesotho, Zambia, Uganda, Namibia, Tanzania, Mauritius and Seychelles, and growing maritime security cooperation is centred around Mauritius and Seychelles and also extends to coastal African nations.
“Challenges of anti-piracy, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism are increasingly visualised as a shared problem. India is guided by the SAGAR doctrine and has often been a first responder in HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) situations,” Jaishankar said.
A long-standing facet of defence contacts has been through UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, and India has undertaken 12 such missions in the continent. Currently, 4,483 Indian personnel serve in five peacekeeping missions in Congo, Morocco, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia.
“Today, our ties too must respond to the volatile and uncertain world that we confront. There are important lessons to be learnt from the pandemic disruption. The stresses from the knock-on effects of the Ukraine conflict are also relevant,” Jaishankar said.
India and Africa can work together on reliable and resilient supply chains, and they are “important hubs in the decentralised globalisation that is so needed by the international community”, he said. An emphasis on trust and transparency makes India and African states natural partners in the field of technology, and India’s vision of cooperation with Africa will “increasingly centre around health, digital and green growth”, he said.
On political issues, India shares the “frustration of international organisations being unrepresentative of contemporary reality”, and believes Africa must have an adequate presence and voice in global decision-making, including in a reformed UN Security Council, Jaishankar said. “And in turn, we count on Africa to stand up for a partner with whom it has a past, a present and a future,” he said.
India also believes Africa’s growth and progress is intrinsic to global rebalancing, and the world will really become multipolar only when the continent attains its true potential, Jaishankar pointed out.
Jaishankar also spoke at length about India’s development partnership in Africa, where the country has completed 189 projects, with 76 more at the execution stage and another 68 at the pre-execution stage. These projects were financed with lines of credit worth more than $12 billion and extend to more than 40 countries.
Notable projects include the railway line and presidential palace in Ghana, the National Assembly building in Gambia, the Rivatex textile factory in Kenya, the metro express project in Mauritius and the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Niger.
The Pan Africa e-Network was launched in 2009, and its first phase was completed in 2017. A total of 19 countries have signed MoUs to become partners for tele-education and telemedicine networks, and over the past five years, six IT centres in were established in South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Lesotho, Ghana, Namibia and Tanzania, along with a centre for geo-informatics applications in rural development in Madagascar and Niger.
India is now the fourth largest trade partner for Africa, with two-way trade worth $69.7 billon during 2018-19. “This has obviously been impacted during the Covid years but we are expecting a strong recovery. The Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme announced by India has benefited African nations by extending duty-free access to 98.2% of India’s total tariff lines,” Jaishankar said.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which came into force in January 2021, is expected to enhance trade volumes, and India also ranks fifth in investments with a cumulative commitment of $70.7 billion. Indian industry has made sizeable commitments in oil and gas, mining, banking, textiles, automotive and agriculture.