External Affairs

‘The India-Africa Relationship is Beyond Strategic Considerations’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting African editors in New Delhi on October 24, 2015. Credit: PMO

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting African journalists in New Delhi on October 24, 2015. Credit: PMO

As part of the media outreach for the Third India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) taking place in New Delhi next week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an “interaction” with journalists from a number of African publications and TV channels. Modi’s remarks to the gathering can be seen here and though he did not take questions from them, the Ministry of External Affairs released the text of his “written interview with African journalists” in town for the Editors Forum – a parallel event to the IAFS.

What is the strategic importance of Africa to India in socio-economic and political terms? Is India’s engagement with Africa a catch-up process with China in the scramble for resources?

The participation of all African countries, including over 40 at the level of Heads of State or Government, in the Summit is a testimony to the deep bonds of friendship and mutual faith between India and Africa.

This is a relationship that is beyond strategic considerations. It is a relationship with a strong emotional link. It has been forged by our intersecting history; our centuries-old ties of kinship, commerce and culture; our common struggle against colonialism; our quest for equality, dignity and justice among all people; and, our shared aspirations for our progress and a voice in the world. We are blessed with vast reservoir of mutual goodwill and confidence.

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 in this century. Their future will shape the course of this world to a great extent.

 While India and Africa will both do much on their own to advance prosperity and peace for their people, our partnership can be a source of great strength for each other, both to reinforce and accelerate each other’s economic development and to build a more just, inclusive, equitable and sustainable world. We have complementary resources and markets; and, the power of our human capital. We have shared global vision.

Our approach to partnership with Africa is driven by the aim of empowerment, capacity building, human resource development, access to Indian market, and support for Indian investments in Africa, so that the people of Africa have the capacity to make their own free choices and the capability to shoulder the responsibility of their continent’s development. Our relationship with Africa is unique and does not need any point of reference.

How and to what extent have the relations between India and Africa helped in the development process of the African continent? How is it a win-win situation for both?

Africa’s development in recent years has been impressive. First and foremost, it is the result of African vision, leadership and efforts to strengthen peace and support economic development in the continent. There are many inspiring models and examples of African success stories in sustainable development and empowerment of people, especially youth and women.

India is privileged to be a development partner for Africa. From the time African nations started gaining independence, we have been supporting human resource development in African countries. Our cooperation now takes many forms and is expanding rapidly in scale and range.

In the past three years alone, 25000 Africans have been trained or educated in India. The Pan Africa e-network, which now connects 48 African countries, is becoming the new highway of regional connectivity and human development. India has emerged as a major and rapidly growing source of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa. Indian tourist flow to Africa is also increasing.

Africa’s development is a huge opportunity for India, just as Africa’s resources, including oil, power India’s economic growth and create wealth and jobs in Africa. The continent’s progress will add great stability and momentum to the global economy and benefit India as well.

Some analysts say that the effects of colonialism and neo-colonialism are acting as an impediment to peace, stability and development of Africa. India too underwent such a historical legacy, but has been able to break free of this cycle of strife and fragmentation, and to concentrate on governance, development and growth. What lessons does India hold in this regard for Africa?

India’s independence had a strong positive impact on anti-colonialism and freedom movements in Africa. We are also proud to have stood firmly in the cause of independence of African countries and to end apartheid.

Africa does not need any lessons from us. The colonial legacy left a long and deep impact on all of us. Africa, too, has passed through difficult times. However, Africa is making impressive progress now. There are laudable initiatives on education, innovation, empowerment of women, skill development and conservation of Nature.

Of course, Africa continues to face many familiar development challenges. There are also new security problems, including from terrorism and extremism, which also affect other parts of the world.

Africa has a rich history of accomplishments; abundant natural resources; and, a large and talented youth population. I have full confidence in the African leadership and the African people to realise the vision of “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want”.

India will always be there, as a friend and partner, to share our experience, expertise and resources to support African nations in whatever manner they want. Since many of our challenges are similar to what Africa faces, our solutions may be relevant in the African context.

What can both India and Africa do to benefit from greater bilateral trade and investments? What are the achievements in this sphere since the first India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-I) in 2008?

I see enormous opportunities for trade and investment ties between India and Africa. India will be the most populous country and Africa the most populous continent in this century. We both have young populations. Africa is also blessed with huge resources. Both India and Africa will grow, modernise and urbanise at a rapid rate.

Our economic partnership is gathering momentum. Besides economic growth in India and Africa, trade has also benefited from India’s decision in 2008 to offer duty free access to Indian markets to all Least Developed Countries, in the context of the first India-Africa Forum Summit. 34 African countries are direct beneficiaries of the scheme.

India has emerged as a major investor from the developing world in Africa, surpassing even China.

Our Lines of Credit to Africa, which is cumulatively USD 7.4 billion from the first two IAFS is creating infrastructure in Africa and boosting bilateral trade. Similarly, Africa’s vast resources and availability of arable land can not only power Africa’s prosperity, but can also become a major source of meeting India’s rapidly growing demand.

India has focused development partnership in human resource development and establishment of institutions in Africa, which are, in turn, creating the skills and capacities in Africa, including in areas like agriculture, food processing, textiles, small industries, etc., to expand exports to India and other countries.

I should also add that Africa’s laudable efforts at integrating Africa’s markets would also stimulate bilateral trade and investment.

As both India and Africa emerge as the new frontiers of opportunities in the 21st century, I am looking forward to the third India-Africa Forum Summit to explore with African leaders how we can further expand our economic partnership and also work to shaping a more favourable global economic environment and institutional framework.

In what ways can the New Development Bank established by BRICS countries in July 2015 benefit African countries?

The New Development Bank is a significant initiative that can have a profound impact on the global financial order. For one, it is, perhaps, the first major initiative on a multilateral financial institution along with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in recent times. It has brought together the five BRICS countries as equal partners in the establishment of the Bank, which reflects a completely new paradigm of financial structure of such institutions. and we would also, hopefully, have an African window or regional presence of the Bank in the future.

Agricultural and related activities are fundamental to the people of the African continent? It also sustains a majority of the people of India. How can India assist Africa in adopting and maintaining sustainable agricultural practices and development?

Africa has 60% of the arable land in the world, but produces 10% of the global food output. Development of the agriculture sector can not only drive Africa’s economic development, employment and food security, it could also turn Africa into the food bowl for the world. African achievements in recent times give us confidence in the future of agriculture in Africa .

India has made considerable progress in agriculture and dairy sectors over the last few decades. We are among the leading global producers in these sectors. Indian success has taken place in the context of low capital intensity farming and varied biodiversity conditions, which can be of great relevance to Africa. Indeed, agricultural experts from India have been deployed in various African countries since the 1960s. Scholarships for agriculture-related courses in India are very popular in Africa. As we now look to the future, we will continue to work with Africa in these areas, but also address emerging challenges: climate resilient agriculture and adaptation to climate change. We will also focus on post-harvest processing and supply chain. I also look forward to hearing African priorities in this regard.

The economic partnership between India and Africa extends beyond trade and investment to technology transfer, knowledge sharing and capacity building. What more can be expected from India in the next few years?

India-Africa economic partnership is not transactional. It rests in the belief of our shared destiny and the power of South-South cooperation in transforming the lives of our people.

India will always work in accordance with the requirements and priorities of our friends in Africa. We will also work together to harness opportunities and possibilities created by new technology and address emerging challenges like climate change. The roadmap for the future will reflect our shared vision and goals, and our respective strengths and capabilities.

Our areas of focus will continue to be on human resource development, institution building, infrastructure, clean energy, agriculture, health, education and skill development. We will also work together on addressing climate change and sustainable development of blue economy.

We will certainly raise our partnership to a much higher level in the years ahead. We will also make our partnership more effective, based on a comprehensive review of our Development Partnership programme with Africa, particularly in terms of capacity building, infrastructure support and technology sharing, and discussions with our African partners.

Does India’s commitment to reform of the global political and economic order, dovetail with its aspirations to become a member of the UN Security Council?

The world is undergoing political, economic and technological transition on a scale rarely seen in recent history. We have four times as many member countries in the United Nations as we had at its inception. Awareness of rights and aspirations for progress is more widespread now. Global power is more distributed. We live in a digitally networked world, which is changing the character of the global economy. Threats to peace and security have become more complex, unpredictable and undefined. In many ways, our lives are becoming globalised, but fault-lines around our identities are growing. Terrorism, cyber and space are entirely new frontiers of threats, opportunities and challenges. Climate change is a pressing global challenge. The developing world is dealing with complexities of a new wave of urbanisation.

Yet the global order, its institutions and our mindsets continue to reflect the circumstances that existed at the end of the last World War. These institutions have served us well, but they must be reformed in order to remain effective and relevant in the new era. We might have a more fragmented world and our collective ability to deal with the challenges and changes of our era will also be weakened.

That is why India advocates reforms in global political, economic and security institutions. They must become more democratic, inclusive and representative of our world. No institution will have that character today, if it does not give voice to Africa or the world’s largest democracy, constituting one-sixth of humanity.

What will the Summit (IAFS-III) produce as a tangible result in terms of cooperation between India and Africa?

Our objective is to deepen the spirit of partnership, strengthen our international solidarity and expand our cooperation. When I look at the Africa’s vision for itself, captured so eloquently in Agenda 2063 document, I believe that our development goals and international aspirations are closely aligned. This will be the foundation of our partnership in the years ahead.

At the third India-Africa Forum Summit in Delhi, we hope to set substantially higher and ambitious targets for our development partnership. We also aim to make it more effective, drawing upon our experience over the past decade. As in the past, our primary aim is to support our African partners in their efforts to accelerate the momentum of their development. We will also address key challenges of our times, including food, health and environmental security. We will create conditions that stimulate trade and investment flows between our countries. We will work together to address the problems of climate change. We will explore new areas like a sustainable Blue Economy. Our initiatives will aim to use the power of science and technology, Space science and the networked world to transform lives. This is not a one-way street. We hope to learn a great deal from numerous African success stories in all walks of life.

We will also reinforce our partnership on the global platform and deepen our security cooperation, including on maritime security, countering terrorism.

The third Summit, which will see the participation of all African nations for the first time, will launch a new era of India-Africa partnership.

  • GAURAV GUPTA

    When was the last time our Prime Minister really interacted with journalists? Isn’t interaction supposed to mean: liberating questions answers like happens in USA?