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Keynote Address by Shri Amar Sinha at the Africa Day round table on the theme "Africa's Security Challenges"

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  • Secretary (ER), Ministry of External Affairs
    May 17, 2017

    Excellencies,

    Ambassador Prasad,

    Professor Dubey,

    Our friends and colleagues on the dais,

    Ladies & gentlemen,

    Greetings for Africa Day on 25 May.

    The vastness of the continent, long maritime borders as the entire continent is encircled by oceans and seas, underdeveloped economies and patches of poverty, increase in radical tendencies – all make the continent vulnerable to various security threats. The continent thus faces the challenges of internal political disturbances, terrorism, maritime security & piracy, drug-trafficking, etc. The continent also has been facing natural disasters including famine and outbreaks of diseases. While the challenges are many, I would like to focus on some issues that may have direct implications for India as well as on the assistance offered by India to those countries to mitigate the challenge. I preface my comments by stating that these are by way of academic description – not a criticism in any way, nor an indication of policy. Policy focuses on the positives and there are many. But we do believe security is indivisible as the Ambassador of Tunisia mentioned.

    Internal Political disturbances

    The first and foremost security challenge is that many African countries are not at peace with themselves. The effects of colonialism have been persistent and left behind a host of issues. While the history of such crises is very deep, yet in this decade too we have seen their expression in many countries including the Sahel region (Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso), DRC, Central African Republic, etc. It may not be possible to get into the details of each situation; however, it may be stated that it has had devastating impact on the socio-economic development of those countries, created an atmosphere of insecurity and uncertainty, led to internal displacement of millions of people and which in itself is a big tragedy. As the countries enter into this vicious circle, there is frustration among the ever growing youth population because of the lack of opportunities. India's contribution, therefore, has been two-fold. To assist the disturbed countries through UN Peacekeeping missions and by offering assistance for their socio-economic development. I will come back again on the details.

    Terrorism

    We have also heard that today Africa has become a fertile ground for harbouring international terrorists and also home-grown terrorist organisations. As is known, one of the African countries (Sudan) was a base for Osama Bin Laden in the early nineties. Al Qaeda had carried out a series of terrorist acts in countries including Egypt, Kenya and Tanzania. It also began indoctrinating the youths and spreading radical ideological thought in the garb of religion. As the Al Qaeda network started diminishing in influence, ISIS took the lead role. According to Africa Centre for Strategic Studies, a U.S. Congress funded institution, at the end of 2016, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as ‘Daesh’, announced that the group had expanded and shifted some of its command, media, and wealth to Africa. ISIS's Dabiq magazine referred to the regions of Africa that were part of its "caliphate": "the region that includes Sudan, Chad, and Egypt has been named the caliphate province of Alkinaana; the region that includes Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda as the province of Habasha; the North African region encompassing Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Niger, and Mauritania as Maghreb, the province of the caliphate.” ISIS's interest in establishing a presence in Africa has long been a part of its vision for a global caliphate. Unfortunately, they have a large number of recruits from Tunisia and a few other countries. They also managed to forge ties or get allegiance from local terrorist groups.

    The Boko Haram insurgency in North-east Nigeria continues to pose the biggest security challenge, which has not only seen over 20,000 causalities but also millions of people displaced from their homes. These IDPs live in extremely harsh conditions in special camps set up, which again become fertile grounds for radicalization. Boko Haram has assumed wider international ramifications as it pledged allegiance to ISIS in March 2015. As a result, ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani stated that recruits to his group had the option to travel to West Africa to fight if they could not get to Iraq and Syria. It is not a war against the West, a theme that is oft-repeated by groups in Afghanistan or the Middle East. They wish to delegitimize duly-elected governments and destroy nation States. Only this morning we learnt of the attack in Northern Kenya.

    With Al Qaeda and ISIS attempting to consolidate their global imprint, diverse theatres of conflict are emerging in the African continent. Apart from the global networking posing a threat to countries across the world including India, it affects the oil production capacities of countries. It also retards economic development. For example, due to the insurgencies in the Nigerian Delta, there has been reduction in oil production. According to a few estimates, this has led to a rise in oil price by 1.5 per cent per barrel. Nigeria is an important supplier of oil for India.

    Piracy and Oil Bunkering

    Pirate attacks coming from Somalia into the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden are a major maritime security threat on the eastern side of Africa. On the western flank the situation is equally worse. Petro-dollars have attracted the attention of pirates. Being home to valuable hydrocarbon assets (Angola, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea) petro-piracy and security of hydro-carbon installations is the predominant concern for the region. Major oil and gas assets are off shore in the Gulf of Guinea, with a coast line of 6000 km from Senegal to Angola. With the fall in international oil prices, kidnapping for ransom has become another security challenge. We saw an example of this in the recent hijacking of the Indian boat Al Kausar consisting of 13 Indian crew off the coast of Somalia. We appreciate the speed of reaction of the Somali Government and regional leaders, which led to the vessel being freed in less than a week.

    Drug Trafficking

    Drug trafficking has been on the rise in Africa. Some of the African countries have become a transit corridor for drugs coming from Asia and Latin America for Europe. Drugs from Afghanistan generally travel through Central Asia or Iran to Europe. However, lately, drugs have found a new African ‘Smack Track’, which passes through Kenya and Tanzania to Europe. South American drugs find their transit points in the West African region. Although estimates differ, around 40 per cent of Europe’s supply passes through the African continent. Since the direct routes of smuggling drugs to Europe from Asia and Latin America are better monitored and frequently interdicted, transhipment through African countries help in disguising the origin of cargo. This is also a serious cause of concern for us, as the professionals in this trade are trying to sneak into India through false identity and carry out their nefarious activities.

    Indian engagement with Africa

    Let me now come to how we are engaging with Africa to tackle these issues.

    Coming to the specific issues of internal political unrest and terrorism, as you are aware, GoI has been the largest troop contributor in the world. India is currently the second largest Troop Contributing Country (after Ethiopia) with nearly 7762 personnel in 10 missions. India's primary contributions (nearly 80 per cent) are in DR Congo and South Sudan. In addition, India's assessed annual financial contribution is around USD 11 million (0.1332 per cent of USD 8.27 billion). PM had participated in the leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping in New York in September 2O15. India has been imparting training at the Centre for UN Peacekeeping (CUNPK) for Training of Trainers from upcoming Troop Contributing Countries from Africa.

    Keeping in view the demand coming from African countries, we have been assisting them in capacity building for their armed forces. In addition, we are providing special training. For example, today there are 60 officers from Nigeria undergoing training in India on T-72 tanks. (Tanks are required to be used in fighting against the Boko Haram.) We shall have a special training course for 100 Nigerian Army personnel in counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency in the second half of the year.

    Our overall engagement with the African continent occurs at both the pan-Africa and bilateral levels. We interact under the frameworks of IAFS, CII-Exim Bank conclaves, etc. We now are also going to have the Annual Meet of African Development Bank in Gandhinagar next week and we are getting a number of HoS for the same. As you are aware, our Prime Minister has announced Lines of Credit worth USD 10 billion for socio-economic development projects during IAFS III to be disbursed in the next five years. The work is on track. We also offer scholarships under ITEC and ICCR. I may also underline the fact that all our courses under ITEC are for working professionals and, as we build their capacity, institutions are strengthened. This is the way we are engaging with our African friends to jointly deal with the security challenges.

    Development partnership is driven by our partner’s priorities with the focus on institution/capacity building. It is also a model that is consultative/cooperative and participatory, engaging other partners such as Japan, Germany and UK.

    Two dilemmas that we notice are:

    1. Digitisation is a part of modernisation. While access to information is the backbone of e-governance, but the same tools are also used by groups for radicalisation.
    2. Raw material has zero value in the ground. However, its exploitation also leads to direct and indirect funding to anti-Government forces, including terrorist organisations, through buying peace for carrying on legitimate business.

    Lastly, a new black swan is on the horizon: increasing indebtedness and the lure of cheap money. Financial packages with hidden costs, structured in a manner that swaps debt for equity, are on offer. The lure of such apparently cheap money is irresistible. We have seen serious fiscal imbalances in our immediate neighbourhood, and we hope our African partners will be judicious in how they borrow and spend. Otherwise, it will sow seeds of widespread social unrest in the medium to long term. The potential for destabilisation is immense.

    Thank you.

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