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Inaugural Address by Shri Dinkar Khullar, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs at the Second India-Africa Strategic Dialogue-Common Security Challenges for the Next Decade: Perspectives from India and Africa

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  • Dinkar Khullar
    November 18, 2013

    Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director-General, IDSA
    Scholars from Africa,
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is indeed a privilege to be here at the inaugural session of the 2nd India Africa Strategic Dialogue organized by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). It was under the second India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-II) that IDSA was entrusted to organize academic interchange of views through a series of Strategic Dialogues, the first edition of which was successfully organized in November 2011.

    2.      Over the years, IDSA has emerged as a premier institution dedicated to objective research and policy studies on all aspects of defence and security. It has done commendable work to promote national and international security through the research and dissemination of knowledge on defence and security-related issues. Living as we do in an inter-connected world where security of everyone is interdependent, the topic of this year’s Dialogue - Common Security Challenges for the Next Decade: Perspectives from India and Africa - is most pertinent and relevant.

    3.      Africa is a large continent comprising 54 nation-states and about a billion people with vast diversity amongst as well as within the nations. Since most of the borders were delineated in the process of contest among the colonial powers arbitrarily with scant consideration for ethnic, tribal or linguistic factors, several countries have suffered from various sources of internal and external instability.

    4.      Today, the continent of Africa is emerging strongly from decades of lost opportunities in the 1980s and ’90s. The continent’s economic resurgence is reflected in several of its countries posting more than 7% growth rate. It is estimated that Africa as a whole will grow at about 5 percent over this second decade of the 21st century— more than any other continent. The long-term trend in foreign direct investment paints a positive picture. Africa is also showing more promise than any time since independence for an inclusive socio-economic development. Health and skills sets are improving. Birth rates are down, albeit from a high base. Technology is playing its part in overcoming physical infrastructure barriers giving birth to new growth sectors like mobile banking. The African Union has been proactive in resolving disputes, which has led to reduction in violent conflicts, greater political stability, improved governance and sound macro- economic measures.  

    5.      The India-Africa partnership is unique and owes its origins to history. We struggled together against colonialism and apartheid during the colonial period. India will always acknowledge Africa's role in inspiring our own struggle for national liberation. It was on African soil that Gandhiji’s political philosophy came to fruition. And it was Africa where the Mahatma developed the concepts of non-violence and peaceful resistance. 

    6.      In the post-colonial phase, our historical relationship with Africa made us jointly struggle against the problems of poverty, disease, illiteracy etc. This resulted in multi-dimensional cooperation that includes not merely government-to-government activities but also extensive people-to-people contacts and participation of each other’s private sector in economic ventures.

    7.      In the 21st century, our relationship has expanded even further, beyond political, economic and cultural contacts. As the African Union has matured, the AU as well as a number of African countries are playing an increasingly important role in international organisations and on major global issues. Big countries like Nigeria and South Africa are active in the United Nations, particularly on the question of the reform of the Organisation and the expansion of the Security Council. During 2011-12 when India was a member of the Security Council with South Africa and Nigeria, it became evident that we share a common vision on a number of important issues of global governance.

    8.      In the decades to come, it will be this strategic congruence between India and Africa that will further deepen and expand the multi-dimensional cooperation that already exists between India and Africa. And it will be within this context that both India and Africa will have to deal with common security challenges.

    9.      The issue of common security challenges will occupy the attention of the distinguished panellists assembled here over the next two days. Let me share a few thoughts on the challenges we are likely to face as India and Africa draw ever closer to one another. The rise of extremist violence and terrorism has been one of the most disturbing security phenomena of the recent past. Long before the incidents of 9/11 seared the political consciousness of the West, India and Africa were faced with this challenge and had been putting up a brave fight against the forces of extremism. The religious extremism that started in Somalia leading to political disintegration of the State insofar as the African continent is concerned closely mirrors what happened in roughly the same period in India’s neighbourhood.

    10.    Today, several other parts of Africa are falling victim to a medley of terrorist groups who despite their diversity of aims, objectives and ideology are all involved in acts of senseless violence. Running through the horn of Africa to the Gulf of Guinea covering a vast stretch of Sahelo-Saharan nations, terrorist groups are mushrooming whose sole objective appears to attack stable political order.

    11.    Then, there is the issue of maritime security. The problems of piracy and maritime robbery which has, till recently, been largely restricted to the Eastern Coast of Africa have assumed serious proportions in the Gulf of Guinea as well. India has been mindful of this challenge and, during its presidency of the Security Council in November 2012, organised the first-ever thematic debate on the problems of piracy and maritime robbery. With the support of the African and other members of the Security Council, India piloted the adoption of a comprehensive presidential statement that addresses the problems of piracy off the eastern and western coast of Africa.  I am glad to note that a whole session later today will be dedicated to the issues of maritime security challenges.

    12.    Then, there is the issue of peacekeeping. Indian soldiers are deployed in almost all peacekeeping missions in Africa and have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with their African counterparts.

    13.    As I mentioned earlier, Africa is a resurgent continent. As the pace of Africa’s socio-economic development acquires momentum issues of energy and food security will acquire greater prominence. On the whole, Africa is an energy-rich continent; however, huge infrastructural investments will be required to make energy accessible to all. Similarly, food security is another common concern.

    14.    In an instance of noticeable demographic similarity, both India and the African countries have a large percentage of youthful population. The gainful employment of our youth and successful channelling of their energies would be a major challenge. We fully understand how lack of opportunities and creative avenues can alter a potential demographic dividend into a serious security concern.   

    15.    One more issue, I would briefly want to touch upon is that of India-Africa cooperation on environmental issues. Climate Change is likely to remain an issue of concern in the foreseeable future. The fine balance between the demands of development and the so-called “greater common good” will call for deft manoeuvring and a high degree of cooperation amongst the developing nations. I sincerely hope that both India and our African partners rise to this challenge.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    16.    The issues that I have highlighted are only indicative. All these challenges, however, require strengthened cooperation, including among our security agencies, scientists and technologists, and economic entities. We look forward to exchange of views on how India-Africa cooperation on these and other challenges can be deepened wherever it exists or created where it does not. Finally, I wish all the best to all the participants at this Strategic Dialogue and keenly look forward to the outcome of your deliberations.

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