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Cozy Relations between India and Africa

Posted April. 03, 2008 06:25,   


Quiz: This country opposed the U.N. resolution accusing Sudan of human rights violations in Darfur. It also praised Zimbabwe, a country that the United States designated as one of the worst violators of human rights, as one of its “partners in development,” and with whom it has entered into “good cordial relations.”

One may think this is China, which Western countries and international human rights watchdogs criticize for coddling African dictators. But the answer is India, a country considered to have the most advanced democracy.

India is concentrating its efforts on the African continent to secure natural resources and check China’s advance. But according to the World Today, a monthly magazine published by Chatham House, home of the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, India, unlike China, is expanding its presence quietly and unchecked.

Next Tuesday and Wednesday, India hosts the India-Africa Forum Summit, inviting 14 African heads of states in an attempt to widen its cooperation with the African continent.

Over the past five years, India has doled out 2 billion dollars to African countries in the name of loans and aid. Its trade with them shot up to almost 20 billion dollars last year from a meager 4.3 billion dollar in 2002. It maintains 9,000 soldiers on the continent as part of a U.N. peacekeeping mission but which also serves to solidify its political influence there.

Africa carries enormous strategic meaning for India. Heavily dependent on maritime transportation, India is beefing up its security ties with African countries to secure trade routes across the Indian Ocean. At the same time, New Delhi is striving to maintain a grip on Africa’s abundant natural resources, including oil, diamonds, ores and metals.

Unlike China’s less refined approach, India has been able to maintain a low profile. Thought it lost several oil development projects to China due to a lack of monetary resources, it served as an important lesson.

Instead, India is now trying to win the hearts of the African people.

First, India fills the entire necessary labor force with local residents, a key difference from China’s import of its Chinese laborers. India also highlights its past colonial history to arouse a common bond with African countries, which were also once colonized by Western countries. By mobilizing a network of 2 million expatriates in Africa, India calls itself a brother to the continent.

Taking advantage of its IT prowess, India invested 1 billion dollars to help launch the Pan-African e-Network last year. The project will connect 53 African countries via satellite and fiber optic cable.

India is also making various efforts in the non-economic sphere. It is diversifying its aid in places where most underdeveloped African countries need help, by sending medical staff, technicians and farmers.

Contrary to suspicions regarding China’s advance in Africa, most Western countries have been assisting India’s approach to the continent.

The magazine focused on India’s unique strategy in Africa. It highlighted the fact that India did not simply deem African countries as a bountiful source of natural resources. Instead, India’s success is seen to come from its unselfish image as a country, not merely trying to advance its own interests, but trying to help the African people.