May 13, 2009, 6:43 AM
Afro-Indian relations transcend millennia. India and Africa - the world largest democracy and vast continent - have a shared history of struggle against colonialism, common search for identity, determination to ensure equality, dignity and justice in the post colonial world order.
Throughout the period of struggle for African independence against neo-colonialism, against apartheid and discrimination, India and Africa have been brothers in arms in their centuries-old ties.
India’s engagement with Africa remains part of the larger political context of the relationship that India has had with Africa, the brotherly relationship essentially which India has had for a very long time especially after her independence; hence African’s have been an integral part of India’s history and India’s ties with African countries rests on firm historical foundations.
It is against the backdrop of this intersecting history and desire for comprehensive re-engagement with Africa that India start structured engagement with Africa in the form of the Forum on African-India Forum Summit (AIFS). Followed by the first summit which was held in 2008 in India and the second summit held in 2011 in Addis Ababa, the third India-Africa Forum Summit held from October 26 to 29, 2015 and for the very first time in history it gathered the largest ever African diplomatic corps in the capital city of New Delhi in the spirit of mutually beneficial partnership.
The summit, which gathered 54 countries from the African continent of which 40 of them represented by their heads of state or government, is meant to show the world how India is serious about engaging with Africa and highlight India as an alternative partner for trade and investment.
It is at this historic juncture that “the world’s fastest growing continent and the world’s fastest growing major economy,” Africa and India respectively, met for deliberations of forging strategic engagement at the highest political level.
A vibrant India and a resurgent Africa have got so much common cause to work together. India is believed to be on the right path towards democracy and delivering good governance while Africa is claimed to be an essential element to build partnership with the continent.
The enormously natural resource rich Africa is ten times the size of India with large amount of arable land which can become a major source of meeting India’s rapidly growing demand. In addition to this the continent has got a long coastline very important for trade in strategic terms.
Africa is demographically Young continent sixty five percent of the population is under the age of thirty five. India and Africa constitute one -third of the world’s population a large majority of them are in their youth.
Indeed, India and Africa will have a significant part of the global youth population and according to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks; their future will shape the course of this world to a great extent.
India advocates reforms in global political, economic and security institutions. Africa despite being the largest continent in terms of number of the countries and India, which has one-sixth of the world’s population, still don’t have permanent membership of the UNSC and Modi’s administration need to work together with Africa to remove this anomaly.
India’s foreign policy interest in Africa displays its manifestation of South-South cooperation. In this regard, India played paramount role in support for African partners in their efforts to accelerate the momentum of their development.
This is evident in the outcome of previous India-Africa forum summit which has shown the promise of Indo-African partnership. According to Indian government reports, India’s current trade with Africa is around USD 70 billion dollars and it has granted a whopping USD 7.4 billion for various developmental and capacity building projects in the last four years.
The country trade with Africa has ballooned 20 times in the last 15 years and India’s investment in Africa range between USD 30-35 billion. India has implemented a total of 137 projects in 41 African countries during the period.
While Africa celebrates its ‘renaissance’ and narrates the story of ‘Africa Rising’, India’s engagement with Africa could well serve as a crucial springboard to a more intense and mutually beneficial strategic partnership.
However, apart from vigorous efforts and a race to harness economic engagements, Africans who strive to build a prosperous and united Africa also have a great deal to learn from India’s consolidated democracy and culture of tolerance.
“A vibrant India and a resurgent Africa have got so much common cause to work together.”