India- Africa Strategic Dialogue: Session V - Bilateral Issues - Security
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • The fifth session of the conference was chaired by Ambassador (retd.) R. Rajagopalan, Member, Executive Council, IDSA. The speakers were Dr. Paul Musili Wambua, Professor of Maritime and Commercial Law at the University of Nairobi School of Law, Kenya and Ms. Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate, IDSA, New Delhi.

    Wambua, presenting his paper on “India-Africa Security Cooperation: Gains, Challenges and Future Prospects” argued that India’s historical and diplomatic relations with Africa provided the best chance for Afro-Indian security cooperation at the beginning of the 21st century. Wambua pointed out that in the past one decade or so, the international system has witnessed the emergence of new and complicated security challenges both within and among nation-states that not only called for the redefinition of the concept of “security”, but also for enhanced cooperation between India and Africa to counter the emerging threats.

    He pointed out that the nature and dynamics of 21st century security threats and their concomitant actors, structures and processes have made it clear that no state can act unilaterally and succeed fully in addressing them. In fact, the complicated nature of international terrorist organisations, narcotics and arms trade, human trafficking syndicates, as well as international economic crimes, that includes but is not limited to money laundering and piracy only, forms the greatest rationale for cross-regional security cooperation. In this regard, the establishment of regional cooperation between India and Africa is invariably seen as a safety net that helps reduce any security threat. He thought that this is an underlying and often unstated element in regional cooperation, and felt that there is a need for a strong argument in favour of such arrangements that may address issues of security, trade and economic cooperation. He assumed that stronger the web of such regional and cross-regional ties, the stronger is the threshold against internal, regional and global security threats.

    Explaining India’s foreign policy towards Africa and the gains made so far through bilateral security cooperation, Wambua said that despite the absence of a comprehensive strategy, India’s strategic interests in Africa revolve around the urge to assume a leading role and responsibility in Africa as a major development and investment partner, especially in the energy sector and security of the Indian Ocean. In this regard, India has developed bilateral security relations with a number of countries, such as, Nigeria, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Botswana, Lesotho, and others. In addition, India has also made a significant contribution in the field of military, social and economic sectors to further enhance stable and long-term bilateral relationships.

    Despite these gains, however, there are still gaps and challenges remain in forging stronger security cooperation between the two parties. Wambua pointed out that India’s sudden interests in Africa is driven purely by its projected energy insecurity. It is also seen as India’s response to the growing influence of China around Africa in recent years. Nonetheless, he emphasised that it is important to develop a strong security relationship on a range of issues to address various security concerns that plague both India and Africa. Moreover, assessing the nature of the sources of instability and insecurity in India and Africa, Wambua said that despite different contexts, the underlying human security issues are quite the same.

    The greatest challenge to Indian-African security cooperation is that it is not very well-coordinated. At the end of his presentation, he suggested that to overcome these security challenges and to materialise the gains made so far, India and Africa must further coordinate, focus and institutionalise their security cooperation frameworks.

    Ruchita Beri in her paper “Evolving India-Africa Security Cooperation” argued that with the end of the Cold War and the restructuring of international politics, the entire notion of security has witnessed a number of changes. She argued that the concept of security has expanded in two ways i.e. first in respect of who or what the referent objects of security are, such as, the political, social, cultural, economic that must be secured; and second, in respect of nature of threats these referent objects face. Referring to the UN high level panel report on Threats, Challenges, and Change, she pointed out that “In today’s world, a threat to one is a threat to all.” In this regard, there is a growing realisation among the African leaders that non-traditional aspects of security are as important as the traditional ones.

    Giving details about India’s existing traditional security cooperation with Africa, she said that India-Africa security cooperation has rapidly increased in recent years. The range of bilateral security issues now includes training and infrastructural development assistance, peacekeeping, defence agreements, naval visits and assistance, joint exercises, defence equipment transfers etc. Talking about India’s vital role in peacekeeping in Africa, she said that India has participated in all UN peacekeeping operations in the African continent till now and has contributed around 34,466 personnel. India is also currently the largest contributor to the peacekeeping operations in Africa. Moreover, it is involved in imparting training on peacekeeping at the Centre for UN Peacekeeping at the United Service Institution of India, New Delhi. It has also proposed to support the African Union Mission in Somalia with a grant of US $ 2 million.

    In the last two decades, India-Africa security cooperation has also improved in the field of non-traditional security issues, such as, food, health, and energy security. She pointed out that India is today the leading producer of pulses, rice, wheat and sugarcane and could assist African countries achieve food security. In recent years, in fact, over 80 Indian private companies have invested up to $ 2.3 billion in commercial farming initiatives in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal and Mozambique. So far as the cooperation in energy is concerned, she said, at present around 18 per cent of India’s crude oil imports are sourced from Africa. At the same time, India has aggressively followed a policy of acquiring exploration and production assets abroad and importantly Indian companies like Tata group and others have been successful in procuring equity assets for mining coal in Mozambique. There are also efforts towards accessing uranium material from African countries like Malawi and Namibia to fuel India’s ambitious nuclear power programme.

    Despite these achievements, however, there are various challenges that this nascent relationship is facing and Africans are still questioning India’s approach towards Africa. As India is making efforts to access energy sources from Africa, like China, it too is often accused of being neo-colonialists. Critics have warned India against following the Western strategy of supporting undemocratic and dictatorial regimes in pursuit of its national interests. Nevertheless, India has recently taken a number of cooperative initiatives with Africans to set up institutions related to food security, integrated textiles, weather forecasting, life and earth sciences, agriculture, rural development and financial assistance to achieve development goals. Concluding her presentation, she said that India is making conscious efforts to respect Africans as partners and this redefined partnership provides corridors of opportunity within which African countries can also redefine themselves in relation to their security issues.

    During the Question and Answer session, the participants observed that the people- to-people cooperation has not been utilised well between India and African countries, particularly in the field of socio-economic integration. Thus, India’s diaspora needs to be assimilated; otherwise, it will remain a diaspora. So far as capacity-building in Africa is concerned, it was asked whether India can help African countries in building political leadership? Africa has also not gained from India’s experience of peaceful use of nuclear energy for the benefit of the African people. The Chairperson, while responding to a question, said that the Indo-US nuclear deal will not in any way impact on India’s relationship with Africa. It will not limit India’s efforts and ability to help Africans in an era of globalisation. In fact, this nuclear deal has helped in strengthening the India-US strategic relationship and there is a growing cooperation between the two countries on regional and global security issues. Finally, the Chair said that the eastern part of Africa needs greater attention in terms of bilateral security cooperation in the coming years.

    Report prepared by Saroj Bishoyi, Research Assistant, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi