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Monday Morning Webinar – Coup in Sudan and Fallout

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  • November 01, 2021
    1030 to 1300 hrs
    Monday Morning Webinar – Coup in Sudan and Fallout

    November 01, 2021

    In the Monday Morning Webinar held on November 01, 2021, Ms. Ruchita Beri, Senior Research Associate and Coordinator Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and United Nations Centre, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) spoke on the topical “Coup in Sudan and Fallout”.  Dr. M. S. Prathibha, Associate Fellow, MP-IDSA, moderated the session. Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy, Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA, and scholars of the institute attended the webinar.

    Executive Summary

    The webinar shed light on the conditions triggering the Coup in Sudan, its internal as well as regional impact and provided an insight on the likely implications it holds for India. It was assessed that the coup would worsen the domestic situation, reverse all the gains made by Sudan over the last two years and tensions may flare up in the region. The close ties shared between Sudan and India; and the role played by other external powers in the country was also highlighted. The importance of restoring civilian rule in Sudan in the near future was underscored by the Speaker.

    Detailed Report

    The Chair, Dr. M. S. Prathibha, began the webinar by sharing introductory details about the coup in Sudan. On October 25, 2021, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military chief and head of Transitional Sovereignty Council, dismissed the government and declared a state of emergency. The Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was temporarily detained and is currently under house arrest. The Chair stated that these events had quashed hopes for a peaceful transition of power. She invited the Speaker to further discuss in detail the conditions that enabled the coup and explore prospects for a democratic transition in Sudan.

    At the outset, Ms. Ruchita Beri highlighted that General al-Burhan, the military chief has seized the power in the government, dissolved the transitional council, declared a state of emergency and imprisoned the civilian leaders. Referring to the previous failed coup attempt in September 2021, she emphasised that the current move by the military had sparked widespread protests in the country and condemnation across the world. She stated that African Union (AU) had suspended Sudan until it restored civil rule, and shed light on the responses of the United Nations, Arab League and some of the neighbouring countries. Ms. Beri assessed that the political crisis in Sudan would lead to worsening of the situation internally and externally.

    The speaker stated that the transitional authorities in Sudan consisted of members from the military and civilians from the Forces of Freedom and Change party (FFC). Identifying that tough economic reforms had led to deepening of differences within the FFC; she highlighted that tensions had been brewing in the political circles, pro-military protestors had held demonstrations and the Port of Sudan had been blocked by a tribal group with the help of the military. The speaker observed that economic crisis as well as acute shortage of food, currency and fuel was one of the reasons triggering the coup. Stating that the military leadership of the sovereign transitional council was slated to shift to a civilian leadership in November, she analysed that key items on the civilian agenda in the agreement also could have caused the military to act. She underscored that other causes for the coup could have been the civilian agenda of ensuring accountability on violation of Human Rights during the rule of President Bashir, vocal criticism of the army by Prime Minister Hamdok, the strict economic reforms and fear that Army might lose their control in the commercial sector.

    With regard to internal impact Ms. Beri remarked that the coup had reversed all progress that Sudan had made. Owing to its efforts to transition to a democracy, the country had recently begun to receive international financial assistance; all of which had been paused following the coup. The speaker underlined that the coup threatens Sudan’s fragile peace and would worsen the shattered economy leading to rise in unemployment. Referring to the external regional impact, Ms. Beri stated that tensions may flare up in the region. She assessed that the coup would inflame existing boundary and territorial disputes, influence the political dynamics surrounding the ‘Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Project’, affect the Tigray crisis and increase the security concerns of the region.

    Ms. Beri shed light on the close historical ties shared between Sudan and India. She mentioned that India is invested in the energy sector of the country, has provided Lines of Credit, is a key development partner for Sudan, Sudan was a beneficiary under India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative and India was at the forefront of providing food aid to Sudan in November 2020. Stating the value of bilateral trade and that major brands like Tata and Mahindra are some of the companies present in Sudan, she said Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) withdrew its operations in 2020 owing to disagreements. The speaker observed that the Minister of State for External Affairs Shri. V Muraleedharan’s visit to Sudan on 18-19th October 2021 implies that India exercises leverage in the country.

    She shared that United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are close external partners to Sudan as they have business interests and are strategically linked in the war against Terrorism. Furthermore, Sudan has helped in fighting against the Houthi rebels and UAE is invested in the ports in Sudan. Ms. Beri underlined that although previously China shared close military relations with Sudan, it has in recent years diluted its economic partnership. Expressing concern about the future in Sudan, Ms. Beri stated that the coup could potentially increase internal chaos and regional conflicts would flare up. She concluded by underscoring the importance of restoring civilian rule in Sudan in the near future.

    Thanking the speaker for a comprehensive analysis and the valuable insights, the Chair called on Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy, DG, MP-IDSA, to share his remarks on the theme. Amb. Chinoy drew attention to and raised queries on the long term implications of the coup on India’s trading community and the possibility of the internal chaos in Sudan descending into a graver humanitarian crisis. He reflected on the likely scope of attention the international community would extend considering it is currently focused on the situation in Afghanistan. Amb. Sujan stated that security and drug consignments particularly at ports could be misused during times of chaos and collapsing government structure. He enquired about the likelihood of the Port of Sudan being used as staging point for arms and drugs. Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), DDG, MP-IDSA, made a reference to the Sudanese military chief’s announcement on the appointment of a technocrat instead of an elected politician to lead the council. He remarked on the importance of countries evolving its own system of governance and stated the examples of Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Comparing international response to the coup in Myanmar and underscoring the need for homegrown evolved system of governance, Maj. Gen. Bakshi asked the Speaker to share views on how the situation in Sudan would play out.

    In her response, Ms. Beri reiterated the security concerns and strategic importance of Sudan which is strategically located connecting the Sahel, Horn of Africa and the North of Africa. She emphasised that worsening situation in Sudan would impact the region as a whole. Regarding the Indian trading community in Sudan, she mentioned that Indian Embassy had issued a safety advisory to all Indians in Sudan and recalled earlier missions by India to evacuate Indians stuck in the conflict. The speaker stated that the Port of Sudan is currently blocked which would increase illegal trade in the future. Mentioning about India’s past defence cooperation with Sudan, she remarked that India may revive its diplomatic parlays with Sudan to help with the transition. To explain the reasons for appointment of a technocrat, Ms. Beri shed light on the commercial and political entrenchment of the military in Sudan and their fear of losing the existing control under a civilian rule. She mentioned about international and regional negotiation processes underway regarding Sudan.

    The webinar concluded with a vibrant and an engaging Q/A session which raised some interesting themes. Key highlights of the Q/A session were the inputs shared on the status of the civilian society in Sudan which is not a monolith and it’s potential to influence the politics; global opinion against the coup; failure of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to produce a presidential statement on the situation in Sudan due to opposition by Russia and China which could cause frictions in international response to the coup; the increasing magnitude of the protests by Sudanese nationals against the coup; implications of the coup on the larger regional geopolitics; the role of AU in bringing stability as Sudan and Ethiopia have become a theatre for geopolitical competition between West Asian powers like Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE; potential of a military governed Sudan becoming a partner of the Sunni bloc against Iran; implication of the coup on the agreement signed between Russia and Sudan to establish a naval base near the port of Sudan; future trajectory of Sudan-Israel ties and the likely flaring up of issues on the dynamics of Nile river water sharing.


    Report prepared by Ms. Sindhu Dinesh, Research Analyst, ALACUN Centre, MP-IDSA.