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Keynote Address by Secretary (ER) Shri T S Tirumurti at the 4th India-Africa Strategic Dialogue  on the theme "India and Africa: Deepening the Security Engagement"

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  • Shri T S Tirumurti, Secretary (ER)
    March 27, 2018

    Ambassador Jayant Prasad, Director General, IDSA,
    Ambassador Alem Tsesaye Woldemariam of Eritrea, Dean of African Diplomatic Corps in India,
    Distinguished guests
    Ladies and Gentlemen,

    1. It gives me great pleasure to participate in the 4th India-Africa Strategic Dialogue organized by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis and share my thoughts on the theme India and Africa: Deepening the Security Engagement. I thank Amb Jayant Prasad and IDSA for this opportunity.

    2. There can be little doubt that in the recent past, particularly in the last 3 or 4 years, our political and economic and indeed strategic engagement with Africa have been taken to a much higher trajectory. In fact, a clear reflection of the priority we give to Africa can be seen from the announcement a few days ago that India has decided to open Missions in 18 African countries. India is, therefore, keen to sustain the momentum of its increasing engagement with Africa.

    3. Our economic engagement also received a huge boost at the Third India Africa Summit 2015. India is now a major development partner in Africa. Currently more than 40% of our Lines of Credit has gone to Africa and this is only poised to increase substantially. In the International Solar Alliance Founding Conference, Prime Minister announced more than US $ 1 billion for solar projects in Africa.  Indian companies have substantially increased their presence in Africa.

    4.  In this scenario, where our political and economic engagements have received a huge fillip, it is only natural that our security engagement is not far behind.

    5. Political stability is fast returning to countries in Africa, particularly with smooth and peaceful transitions taking place in the recent past. These welcome developments have indeed brought to the fore the growing respect for people's will as well as the need to pursue the twin goals of security and development, to be able to reap the benefits of peace and democracy.

    6. However, terrorism has, time and again, threatened the wheels of progress. Terrorist groups have spread across many African countries, including in the Lake Chad region and Sahel countries, and other conflicts continue to persist as well. Terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Islamic Movement Aezwad (IMI) and other off-shoots threaten the regional and international order. Terrorist and extremist  forces disturb peace and stability and render several institutions in Africa weak and vulnerable. Piracy and maritime threats, as well as cross-border threats and transnational crimes, including Narcotics,  trafficking, cyber crime etc. add new dimensions to the problem and has only served to increase instability. On top of this, economic disparities only serve to exacerbate the divisions within societies, not just in Africa but all over the developing world. These make societies more fragile and governance that much more difficult. 

    7. Consequently, in such a scenario, the question is not only deepening security engagement but also broadening and widening security engagement to make this engagement as effective as possible against multidimensional and multidirectional threats. One has had to work on multiple fronts. We are, therefore, working on multiple fronts with Africa.

    8. Friends, an important factor which should not be forgotten is that Africa itself has taken progressive strides in securing peace and security in the continent. Many of these initiatives taken by the African countries themselves, individually or severally, like G5 Sahel and the Multinational Joint Task Force, are meeting with success and have demonstrated the resolve of African countries to bring peace and security to their homes. India’s role has been to strongly support the ongoing process of “African solutions for African problems” in the most important area of security engagement and see how best to qualitatively enhance the capacity of these countries in this quest. India has traditionally adopted a non-prescriptive approach on security matters and supports the national Governments as well as the African Union. Indian supports the AU Peace and Security Initiative within African Peace and Security Architecture. So, even as African initiatives have emerged to address the peace-keeping challenges in Africa, India has been supportive of such initiatives, including through financial contributions, for example, to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). And this of course should come as no surprise.

    9. India’s contribution to promoting security in Africa over the years is well-known, particularly manifested in India’s extensive participation in the UN Peacekeeping efforts in Africa over the last 6 decades. The role of Indian contingents with the UN Emergency Forces in Sinai in 1956 and the vital contribution of Indian troops and Air Force in the operations in Congo from 1960 to 1964 set a high bar which generations of Indian peace-keepers have since strived to live upto. The first all-female Police Unit of the UN consisted of Indian women deployed in Liberia thereby inspiring many women security personnel to volunteer for their respective security forces. Indians have also been in positions of leadership in several UN Missions. Today more than 6000 Indian peace-keepers are deployed in 5 peace-keeping operations in Africa including in South Sudan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo. India has participated in all UN peacekeeping operations in the African continent till now testifying to the high degree of confidence in our abilities and our understanding of the ethos and culture of Africa.

    10. The additional threat dimension added to these layers is in the domain of maritime security. This is vital not just for Africa but for India and other countries as well. Piracy, armed robbery at sea and maritime terrorism pose serious threats to the security and economy of the region. Incidents of hijacking of ships and oil tankers with Indian crew on board have taken place. As our trade increases and greater prosperity sets in, there will be increasing need for India and Africa to work together to neutralise these new threats. India and Africa have also made common cause at international forums in building norms against piracy and terrorism.

    11. It may be recalled that recently, when an oil tanker with 22 Indian crew was hijacked from anchor by pirates off the coast of Benin, it was the prompt and proactive action taken by the navies of Nigeria, Ghana and Benin which created the pressure on pirates to flee the vessel in a week’s time, leaving crew and ship unharmed. The need for India and Africa to partner in the maritime domain is self evident. And we are indeed doing so, in a robust and dedicated manner. 

    12. Given an increasingly complex scenario, India has had to step up its bilateral security engagement with African countries in the last few years. We have always had close bilateral security relations with African countries in the past, but we have now built on this foundation. For example, one of the first training institutes established in Africa by India was the Haile Selassie Harar military academy in Ethiopia in 1958. Many of you would also recall our old links with the armed forces of Zambia. There were years when around 40% of Zambia’s armed forces underwent training in various Indian defence institutions, which subsequently produced several of Zambia’s Defence Chiefs as well.

    13. India has now defence and security cooperation interalia with all the littoral states in the Indian Ocean region, including South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar, the latest being signed during the visit of our President to Madagascar on 14th March, 2018, as well as with countries such as, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Lesotho, Egypt and others. The range of bilateral security issues now includes training, infrastructural development assistance, peacekeeping, defence agreements, naval visits and assistance, joint exercises, defence equipment transfers, hydrographic services etc. 

    14. Fitting into our joint vision for collective action to tackle maritime security challenges in the region is Prime Minister Modi's SAGAR doctrine – “Security And Growth for All in the Region” . For example, in the context of our joint security architecture in the Indian ocean region, I would like to point out that , in pursuance of this approach we have, over the years, built defence and security cooperation with both Mauritius and the Seychelles. As  maritime  neighbours, we have a stake in each other’s security and safety. With both these countries, we share unique historical and cultural linkages as well. Mauritius with its Exclusive Economic Zone spread over 2.3 million square kilometers and the Seychelles over 1.3 million square kilometers are  particularly vulnerable from both traditional and non-traditional threats.  Recognising  this,  we  have drawn up a cooperation agenda with Mauritius and Seychelles that covers within its purview joint efforts in anti-piracy operations, enhanced EEZ surveillance and monitoring to prevent intrusions by potential economic offenders indulging in illegal fishing, poaching, drug and human trafficking. This  cooperation is further enhanced by the  Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in both countries, and our commitment to augment  their  defence  capability. From gifting the Indian naval ship INS Barracuda to Mauritius during PM’s visit in March 2015 to the announcement of a USD 100 million defence LOC during the President’s visit earlier this month, the engagement has deepened considerably in recent years. In recognition of our security convergence in the Indian Ocean region, agreements have been signed to build logistical facilities in Mauritius and in Seychelles.

    15. Another example is the defence cooperation we have had with Nigeria. India has helped set up various military institutions including the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) at Kaduna, the Naval College at Port Harcourt besides other elite military training establishments in Nigeria. A number of Nigerian officers have also been trained over the years in Indian military institutions. These include former Nigerian Presidents, President Olusegun Obasanjo, President Ibrahim Babangida and several other top military officers. The current President His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari has also attended the prestigious Defence Services Staff Course at Wellington.

    16. India has been working closely with other countries as well such as Guinea, Mali, Namibia etc and several others are coming forward to tap into our experience and expertise on the security fronts. One would recall the attack in February, 2016 by militants on the Guinean contingent of the UN Peace-Keeping Mission (MINUSMA) deployed in Mali that led to the death of 7 soldiers and serious injuries to many. In response to Guinea’s request to strengthen its forces’ capacities, India is supplying items such as communication equipment, headgear, sleeping bags etc. to its armed forces.

    17. It is important to highlight the fact that in training and capacity building, India is second to none. We are recognised as the power house of training and this is reflected in the several defence related courses we run in our institutions. As I mentioned earlier, some of the leaders in African States have emerged from our defence institutions. Our training and teaching have brought greater professionalism and enhanced the quality of the security forces in African countries as indeed in all other countries in the world which have trained in our institutions. This is a dimension of our security engagement which is a vital link to deepening security engagement with Africa. Given India’s own history of fighting terrorism, particularly cross-border terrorism, we are in a unique position of being able to share our expertise as well as experience on security issues. Now many third countries have expressed their interest in partnering India to enhance security capacity building and meet training requirements of African countries.

    18. While there are indeed several more dimensions to security per se, including food security, energy security, water security, etc, and while India is indeed engaging with Africa in these areas as well, I wish to stick to a more traditional concept of security engagement and reiterate that our security engagement with Africa is an important element of our foreign policy. We are engaging with the African continent in tackling a complex set of security challenges. Our engagement with Africa has clearly deepened in the last few years, thanks no doubt to our political engagement which has been at an unprecedented level. As mentioned by Deputy DG earlier, in the last three years we have had 20 visits at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister to Africa. External Affairs Minister and our two Ministers of External Affairs have covered most of the other countries in Africa. Thanks to our commitment and credentials, India has been a trusted partner of the African countries and if I may say, a preferred partner.

    19. Thank you once again for giving me an opportunity to share my thoughts. I wish your deliberations all success.

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