Norms and Values
Indian Policy in Africa

The interests of Russia and India largely coincide in Africa. The main areas of cooperation between both countries and Africa are the creation of energy, transport, military-industrial infrastructure, the supply of equipment for the mining industry and metallurgy, projects for the development of agriculture and healthcare.

After the end of World War II, India’s African policy was centred on two key themes. First, financial and political support for anti-colonial liberation movements and the struggle against apartheid regimes in states in the south and east of Africa, particularly South Africa and Namibia. At UN meetings, India has repeatedly drawn the attention of world powers to cases of discrimination and genocide in African countries.

Second, Indian policy sought to build relationships with the continent’s Indian diaspora community. Indians had settled on the east coast of Africa long before the colonial period as a result of the development of shipping and the opening of new sea routes. The Indians were able to significantly expand their presence in Africa during British rule. British authorities sent Indians to East Africa as hired workers to build railroads and work on plantations, and in some cases, they performed local administrative functions. After the completion of the work, many workers remained in the British protectorate of East Africa and moved their families from India. Over time, the Indians who settled in Africa were able to become a strong middle class in African society. They were mainly engaged in trade and opened their own enterprises. For example, Indian small traders travelled to remote areas of Africa and arranged for the supply of agricultural products from villages to cities. In Ethiopia, the concept of a teacher has become almost synonymous with the concept of an “Indian”; in Mauritius, the Indian population became the largest ethnic group. Such economic activity was beneficial to both parties: the African economy developed and contacts with India were strengthened through money transfers from the diaspora. However, not everyone was happy with the presence of Indians in Africa; there were cases when they were accused of pumping money out of national economies.

Since the mid-20th century, India has begun to position itself as a representative of developing African countries in international organisations and to promote closer South-South cooperation. India has also actively interacted with the Organisation of African Unity, founded in 1963. Since India pursued a policy of import substitution until 1991, economic issues played a minor role in bilateral relations. Accordingly, we can say that until the 1990s, predominantly political interaction developed.

1991 was a turning point in Indian politics. The need to change the economic model of the country led to comprehensive reforms and a reorientation towards the external market. The Indian government actively began to attract foreign direct investment, and pursued an export-oriented policy aimed at integration in the world market. Liberalisation also had an impact on foreign policy towards Africa. These led to new areas of interaction and common goals: to diversify imports, guarantee energy and food security and reduce poverty. India has begun to view its diaspora as a potential soft power tool in foreign policy. China’s growing involvement in Africa has intensified competition for resources and influence.
Russia-Africa Summit: A New Era of Cooperation
Anicet Gabriel Kotchofa
In the near future, a historical event will take place in Sochi - the first Russia-Africa summit. The summit is an initiative of President Vladimir Putin and will open in a new era of cooperation.

In 2002, with the support of the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank), the Focus Africa programme was launched in order to expand economic cooperation with the states of the region. Initially, the focus was on Kenya, Mauritius and Ethiopia, followed by Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana, and the project currently involves 24 African countries. India lends to these countries in order to develop and support the import of goods and services from India. In addition, Indian companies wishing to export products to these countries receive a special status and support from local governments. In 2004, India, together with eight West African states, launched the TEAM-9 (Technical and Economic Cooperation between India and Africa) initiative, which was aimed at expanding and strengthening economic relations. As part of this initiative, India wanted, among other things, to participate in the development of oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea.

Such programmes contributed to an increase in trade volumes. Despite the fact that China remains the clear leader in bilateral trade with African countries, India is gradually becoming a significant trading partner for the region. About 8% of India’s exports go to Africa, and the share of Indian imports in African countries is 9%. Trade between India and the African countries increased from $5.3 billion in 2001 to $66.7 billion in 2020. In addition to expanding and diversifying trade relations, the Indian government is supporting private investors. For example, the Confederation of Indian Industry regularly organises India-Africa forums for companies from both sides.

India’s main trading partners in Africa are Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, which account for 89% of Indian imports from the continent. As the Indian economy grew and energy demand increased, India began to import more crude oil and gas from the region. This has led to India meeting many of its energy needs with supplies from Africa; the region accounts for 24% of India’s oil imports. As a result, New Delhi is now less dependent on supplies from the Middle East. African countries are also of interest to India as suppliers of uranium; reserves of the radioactive metal are located in Niger and Namibia. In addition, the country imports gold, precious stones, ores, chemicals and agricultural products.

Indian exports mainly consist of petroleum products, automobiles and auto parts, pharmaceuticals, industrial equipment, textiles, electronics and IT equipment. Exports of Indian pharmaceuticals and medicine to Africa have been among the fastest growing since the beginning of the 21st century. Indian companies play an important role in providing affordable medicine and vaccines Africa sorely needs to treat the region’s deadly diseases. For example, thanks to Indian vaccines, countries in the African “meningitis belt” were able to overcome meningococcal meningitis, and tens of thousands of HIV-infected Africans gained access to an Indian generic developed in 2003 to prevent the disease.

India is one of the ten largest investors in African countries. Several Indian public and private enterprises have expanded their presence in the region since the early 2000s. African countries rich in minerals are attracting investors to the development of the extractive industry. Indian businesses see the region’s potential, and are investing in telecommunications, construction, information technology, finance, banking, healthcare and food processing.

Compared to the PRC, Indian investment is quite limited in terms of South-South cooperation; between 2008 and 2018 it amounted to about $56 billion. Most investments go to one country: Mauritius, which has a special taxation regime. Mozambique and South Africa are also major recipients of investment. Many Indian companies interested in investing in Africa face obstacles that make it difficult to do business. Investors note the lack of information about relevant national markets in Africa, the lack of infrastructure, high transport costs, poor business climate and corruption.

Security cooperation occupies a special place in Indo-African relations. It manifests in the joint fight against terrorism and extremism, ensuring cyber security, conducting joint military exercises and participating in UN peacekeeping missions in the region.

Russia, like India, has always stood for freedom and supported the anti-colonial liberation movements in Africa. The Soviet Union actively participated in the creation and development of industrial and energy infrastructure on the continent. At present, Russia is undergoing a “pivot to the East”, and Africa can become a priority region for Russian foreign policy. Russia traditionally cooperates with the states of North Africa and South Africa (they account for 70% of Russia’s trade with the African continent), while India is also active in Sub-Saharan Africa. The interests of Russia and India largely coincide in Africa. The main areas of cooperation between both countries and Africa are the creation of energy, transport, military-industrial infrastructure, the supply of equipment for the mining industry and metallurgy, projects for the development of agriculture and healthcare. Many areas of interaction between Russia and India in Africa are more developed in our country, so it can compete with India, for example, in nuclear energy, the military-industrial complex, the chemical industry, cybersecurity and digitalisation.
India’s Foreign Policy in Evolving Geopolitical Scenario
B.K. Sharma
At a juncture when a buoyant India is well on its transition from a balancing power to a leading power, unprecedented geopolitical developments are unravelling at a fast pace in our strategic neighborhood and beyond. The three strategic shocks viz, COVID pandemic, Talibanization of Afghanistan and Ukraine crisis have impacted globalization and the world order with ramifications for India?
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.