Reset Indo African ties

Reset Indo African ties

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is embarking on another whirlwind tour abroad. His visit can become a game-changer in Indo-African relations. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is embarking on another whirlwind tour abroad. His visit can become a game-changer in Indo-African relations.

In just five days, he will pay an all-important visit to four African nations – Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya – in five days (July 7-11). Despite around 40 foreign trips, Africa came late on Modi’s radar.

With China jump-starting its relations, India woke up to seize an opportunity last year. It organised the largest ever Africa outreach with India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in October last year. As many as 54 African nations took part in it.

Taking forward the Delhi summit agenda, India sent Vice-President Hamid Ansari to Morocco and Tunisia in May, and President Pranab Mukherjee followed it up with his tour in June to Ghana, Ivory Coast and Namibia. Though he toured Mauritius and Seychelles in March, this will be Modi’s first major visit to the mainland Africa.

A great window of opportunities awaits India in business ventures, commodity trade, energy security, apart from geopolitical stakes in the Indian Ocean. Reforms at United Nations and support for India’s bid for permanent membership in the Security Council are likely on the table. India can offer to protect interests of developing nations in Africa both at UN SC and trade blocs such as WTO.

Though largest democracy and known for universal brotherhood founded on Gandhian principles that appeal to Africans, India remained offshore, as China made inroads into mainland. China is also seeking to align Africa with One Belt One Road and Maritime Silk Route projects covering Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

Indo-African trade which is around $75 billion pales before China’s $200 billion. Though India’s ties have been cordial, if not close, with the African nations, recent racial attacks on African youth on the Indian soil have done much damage to its reputation.

Thus, Modi’s soft diplomacy will be put to an acid test in soothing tempers and allaying apprehensions. He may announce several sops to win over the youth to India.

During his tour, the PM would do well to keep in mind the next China-Africa summit in Johannesburg in December. India can secure energy deals and take up maritime security and defence partnerships with the four traditional allies. Perched on the Indian Ocean coast, they can serve as gateways to land-locked inland nations.

It may be recalled that India sources large shipments of pulses from Africa, especially Mozambique. With food inflation soaring due to back-to-back droughts, India could firm up long-term contracts.

“Today, the heart beat of 1.25 billion Indians and 1.25 billion Africans are in rhythm...And, as we look to the future, there is something precious that unites us: it is our youth. Two-thirds of India and two-thirds of Africa is under the age of 35 years.

And, if the future belongs to the youth, then this century is ours to shape and build,” Modi had said thus at the India-Africa summit. His visit should capitalise on our historic links with Africa, to consolidate and boost trade and economic ties.

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