A New Phase in India-Africa Relations

Ahmed Hassan Hurga

The continent’s fast-growing economies have prompted India to refresh its passive engagement with the block.

India’s Africa policy over the past few decades has oscillated between passive and reluctantly reactive at best. Strategic apathy toward the continent was obvious on many fronts. Not only did countries in Africa not feature in New Delhi’s larger foreign policy matrix, but also until recently there was not any significant attention paid to the continent. Indian leaders seldom traveled to African nations and very rarely did they feature in conversations surrounding New Delhi’s foreign policy ambitions. The narrative of India’s contemporary relationship with Africa is dominated by the historicity of their interactions — the century-old trade partnerships, socio-cultural linkages built by a thriving diaspora, nationalist movements during the Peruvian era that supported anti-imperial struggles and shifting geopolitical tides with the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM).

Beyond this rhetoric, what kept driving this relationship forward was the acquisition of critical assets by State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) looking to diversify the energy basket away from West Asian nations and other commercial ventures.

However, in the past few years, a combination of factors has led to an infusion of energy in this otherwise jaded relationship. Most important was the economic growth of the continent that is estimated to be 3.2 percent in 2018. It also houses six of the world’s fastest-growing economies — the World Bank estimates Ethiopia will grow at 8.2 percent, Ghana 8.3 percent, Cote d’Ivoire 7.2 percent, Djibouti 7 percent, Senegal 6.9 percent, and Tanzania 6.8 percent this year.

Additionally, several African countries have been providing incentives to attract foreign investors and partners in growth while the government in New Delhi has been actively lobbying for support for its bid for a seat at the UNSC.

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