Chairperson: Brig. (Retd.) Rumel Dahiya
A 15-member delegation of the Kenyan National Defence College (NDC), headed by Major General Haji, visited IDSA for an interaction as part of their course curriculum requirements of participants and faculty. After welcome remarks by Brig (Retd) Rumel Dahiya, the session started with a briefing on IDSA and then an overview of relations between India and Africa in general and Kenya in particular. Ms. Ruchita Beri commended that relations with Africa were established since time immemorial and that India considered eastern coast of Africa as extended neighbourhood. Many people of Indian origin live in different parts of Africa. The Indian relationship with Africa is based on the principle of mutual respect and understanding; the buzzword is “partnership” for this relationship. This partnership has evolved over years. Both regions faced similar problems; both struggled against colonialism; both concentrated on peace and development, which is very much the agenda even now. Ms. Beri identified three levels of cooperation between India and Africa, viz,
She also identified various areas of engagement between India and Africa including trade, healthcare, skills enhancement and agriculture. There is already in place a pan e-network between colleges and universities and hospitals of India and Africa, which successfully connected India with 24 African countries. India has also provided lines of credit worth $5.4 billion at the last India-Africa Forum Summit. With Kenya, Indian trade has increased to $1.5 billion at present. The major focus of both the countries is on pharmaceuticals, textiles, agro-processing, and food security. Agricultural cooperation tops the list in the bilateral cooperation of India with Kenya.
Dr. Sreeradha Datta briefed on recent developments in South Asia but cautioned that though political violence has decreased in the region, political governance is yet to be achieved. She referred Pakistan as epicentre of terror, citing recent assassinations of officials by extremist forces. In India, there are some violent struggles—Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India, and Maoist insurgency. Nepal was able to achieve political success though it has yet to consolidate the results. Bhutan has been a steady partner for India. The events in Sri Lanka have been most dramatic and now, the government is engaged in post-war reconstruction.
Dr. Datta also elaborated on the key drivers of concern for the region—demography and its problems. One of the key manifestations of the problem is the issue of wars of water. She mentioned that seventy percent of fresh available water in the region is used for agriculture and by 2030 this usage is projected to double in absolute numbers. At the same time, there is no optimum utilisation of available water, which sometimes resulted in floods. Along, there is over-exploitation of ground water because of water-intensive agricultural practices. There is also lack of strategy to deal with water pollution. This problem is further intensified by climate change and its effects like sea-level rise. All this resulted in the short supply of food. Here, Dr. Datta recalled “Food Bank”, a SAARC regional initiative and claimed that it was not very successful. Even the state distribution systems have not done enough to address food security. Hence, there is a need for infrastructure development to alleviate these problems effectively, she suggested.
Dr. P.V. Ramana briefed the audience on the Maoist problem in India. He started with the genesis of the problem— it started in 1967 and said it is the “armed capture of political power”. He then explained various shades of the movement— increase in spatial operations, increase in fatalities and spectacular attacks. He preferred to call it a challenge rather than a problem. Dr. Ramana further discussed recent trends, which are as follows: increase in weapons, the policy of “stick and sickle”; expansion to virgin territories, consolidation, and merger; large scale attacks on infrastructure; and, external linkages. Regarding government’s response, Dr. Ramana pointed security, development, public perception management as methods of government’s approach towards this challenge.
It was followed by the Q&A Session in which questions were raised on water issues and it having the potential to renew conflict in the region. The session also deliberated on recent events in North Africa and the position of African Union and the Kenyan view on this matter. It was clarified by the delegation that the Arabs agreed to this intervention by the allied forces and Gaddafi was more inclined to the AU and its proposal. The session also discussed pan-African movement of Gaddafi and the impact of his exit on the same; whether it will also impact aid to the AU.
Further questions focused on Indian Diaspora in Africa, contribution of Indian Kenyans and challenges between India and Kenya in enhancing their relations. Questions also focused on Kenya’s perception of China in terms of Chinese investments in the region and also competition for local resources. Towards that end, Indian assistance to Nepal in tackling Maoist problem, and future challenges to internal security were discussed. Here, it was opined that there is no scope for negotiated settlement as negotiation is always used as a tactic; it is war by other means.
Report prepared by Mr. Babjee Pothuraju, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.