The identification of common grounds between Bharat and African countries would be a priority for both the countries. The common economic and political issues will find larger space in the discussion. At the same time China’s business expansion will be a concern between the two parties.
This is another feat in the foreign policy of Bharat where Bharat-Africa third summit is scheduled to happen from October 26, 2015. In fact, it was scheduled in December, 2014 but did not take place. The obvious reason was the terror of Ebola disease. This is the third summit in the series which started from 2008. Third Bharat-Africa summit augurs a new hope between the two continents. Bharateeya Prime Minister is very enthusiastic about this summit. In a series of tweets, the Prime Minister said Bharat’s engagement with Africa has been scaled up and trade has been growing remarkably in recent years. “Bharat is proud to host Bharat-Africa summit 2015. The Summit reflects Bharat’s & Africa’s desire to engage more intensively for a better future,” he tweeted. “Bharat’s relations with Africa are historic. It is a major investor in Africa & trade has been growing remarkably in recent years,” he said. Representatives of 54 African nations including heads of States and governments of around 40 countries and powerful African Union are expected to participate in the four-day summit.
Explaining the importance of this summit the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj made it clear that our direct engagement will provide direction to Bharat and African countries together. The third summit also promises to be a milestone and will be much bigger and grander than the two previous summits held in New Delhi (2008) and Addis Ababa (2011) as this is the first time. In this respect, the 2015 summit marks a new beginning as previously the participation of African leaders in the summit process was based on the basis of the Banjul formula, which entailed the participation of the leaders of around 12-14 African countries, who were represented at the summit in their capacity as the chiefs of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The decision to do away with the Banjul formula and invite all the leaders sends a powerful message across that the two sides are resolved to expand the scope of their partnership and infuse a new hope and opportunities. The third summit is expected to raise the bar and will build upon substantive outcomes and plans outlined in the 2008 New Delhi Declaration and 2011 Addis Ababa Declaration and Africa-Bharat Framework for Enhanced Cooperation. This has shed the stereotype situation of a “Hopeless Continent” and become a “Cape of Good Hope,” with six of the world’s fastest-growing economies located in Sub-Saharan Africa and more than thirty African countries becoming functioning democracies.
Bharat and Africa share a long and rich history of interaction that dates back to ancient civilisations, including the trade ties between the Nile and Indus Valleys. Bharat’s shared colonial heritage with many African countries has significantly contributed to this connection, as has the migration of many Bharateeya workers to Southern and Eastern Africa, establishing large Diasporas in these areas. Bharat’s attitude towards its general relations with Africa in the post–World War II era has been formed by principles of South–South cooperation, such as respect for state sovereignty, non-interference, mutual benefit and equality.
Bharat and Africa have shared a close relationship, and this relationship has gained momentum in recent years. Greater economic engagement has been crucial to boosting ties between Africa and Bharat. Bharat’s trade with Africa amounted to US$ 68 billion in 2011-12 and in the third Bharat-Africa Trade Ministers’ meeting held in 2013 the Bharat-Africa bilateral trade target was set at US$ 100 billion for 2015.
Bharat and Africa both recognise that peace, security and development are intimately interwoven with one another other. While peace ensures opportunity for development, security enables as well as protects fruits of development. Africa is a continent which has witnessed many conflicts. However, Africa has also witnessed economic growth and political reform in the past decade. The issue of terrorism is also of deep concern for both Bharat and Africa as political conflicts in Africa have recently been hijacked by terrorists’ movements with pan-regional and global agenda. Therefore it is important that Bharat engages with Africa on these issues. Many new issues that are challenging the peace on the continent include the problem of state-building in countries like South Sudan, and the new phase of military intervention in Africa that began with Libyan crisis. Bharat has always been deeply engaged with conflict resolution in Africa especially in the United Nations Peacekeeping efforts and this engagement can be deepened. Peace cannot be viewed simply as absence of conflict. Lasting peace can be only achieved in Africa if the focus is on creating a political-economy that favours inclusive growth and distributive justice along with political rights to the masses.
Terrorism has also become raging problem in Africa. Domestic terrorist groups have forged linkages with the al-Qaeda, thus adding to their lethality. Many terrorist groups in Africa have taken advantage of weak governance and fragile state structures to broaden and deepen their operations. In some cases the inter-meshing of violent conflicts with terrorism presents new challenges for counter-terrorism. Climate change poses a serious challenge to humanity. Africa faces severe challenges due to climate change for its agricultural output, bio-diversity and human health. The problem is exacerbated due to under-development and poor adaptive capacity.
Bharat-Africa Summit beyond China
African leaders are beginning to look beyond China in an attempt to diversify their foreign partners. Modi’s new Bharat might turn out to be the one viable alternative to China. This feeling shows omnipresence on the African continent. Till now, Bharat’s trade with Africa is still dwarfed by that of China, despite Bharat’s favorable geographic proximity to East Africa and longstanding cultural, political, and economic ties with the continent. Most Chinese firms are of self driven motives. The only money being pumped into African economies is filtered through government hands. China purchases the rights to harvest certain resources from an African government, but does not employ any local workers to mine it. So the beneficiaries are Chinese companies. That is why African people are fed up with Chinese establishment and showing substantial interest in Bharteeya firms. Bharat is the fifth largest investors in Africa-behind the US, France, Malaysia and China.
Bharat’s Major Companies engaged in Africa
Bharateeya conglomerates operating in the continent include state-owned oil and gas firm ONGC Videsh Ltd., petrochemicals company Reliance, agribusiness firms such as Karuturi Global, pharmaceuticals such as Cipla and Ranbaxy and ICT companies such as Bharti Airtel. The Tata Group, for instance, has been operating in Africa since 1977 and is present in 11 countries across a wide range of industries such as automobiles, hotels and telecoms. India Inc has committed US$10 billion for infrastructure and other projects since 2008. For instance, the Bharti Group has undertaken 11 green-field investment projects in Nigeria and Uganda in 2014, adding to its existing investments in 13 other African countries like Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, The Republic of Congo, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia and Uganda. The Tatas have invested in Algeria. Bharat’s green-field investments in Africa amounted to US$1.1 billion as against US$6 billion of China in 2014, according to UNCTAD’s World Investment Report for 2015. Africa has also been a focus of Bharat’s small but growing foreign assistance program.
Bharat has been also the largest contributor to UN-mandated Peacekeeping and other operations in Africa, with more than 30,000 personnel involved in 17 of total 22 missions in the region since 1960. Along with its economic interests, Bharat also seeks to accomplish wider geopolitical goals through its engagement with Africa. The case in point is Bharat’s continued campaigns for United Nation Security Council (UNSC) reforms aimed at achieving a more democratic UNSC that would reflect current geopolitical realities.
This compact is more South-South than North-South as it entails mutual gain, non-interference, collective growth opportunities and indeed an absence of loan conditionality. All this strengthens the partnership in capacity-building, education, agriculture, food security, climate change, energy security and so on in a concerted manner. Since the second summit in 2011, Bharat has given 25,000 scholarships to African countries. A number of capacity-building institutions are in various stages of implementation. Three vocational centers have been set up in Ethiopia, Burundi and Rwanda. “Bharat never says that we are setting up this institute, in this African country; here is the money, here is the institute, run it is the way of Bharat’s working. This is what distinguishes us from the others.”
In all likelihood this summit will be a major breakthrough on many accounts. The identification of common grounds between Bharat and African countries would be a priority. The common economic and political issues will find larger space in the discussion. At the same time China’s business expansion will be a concern between the two parties. Moreover, a world order based on equity and justice would also be sketched. The success of the summit depends on the implementations of the multilateral agreements between Bharat and African countries.
Dr Satish Kumar (The writer is Head & Associate Professor, CIR CUJ Ranchi)