India's relationship with African countries is independent of China's activities in the continent and competition with Beijing does not determine its policies for Africa, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has said.
"As far as we're concerned, our relationship with the very many countries of Africa is independent of what China is doing there," Mr Tharoor told PTI during his first official visit to New York.
"It is unconstructive to see any of these relationships in terms of a third country," he said.
Noting that development and reconstruction work in the region required contribution not only by China and India, but also by Western nations, Mr Tharoor said: "competition is not the point".
"What we're doing in Africa, we're doing it because we think its the right thing to do as well as we're genuinely convinced that Africa is a place when India can make a valuable contribution," said Mr Tharoor, who is heading to the West African nation of Benin this week after a trip to Liberia.
The policy of the Indian government is to lead its private sector to Africa, where China already has a major presence especially in the field of infrastructure.
A business delegation is accompanying Mr Tharoor on his official visits to African countries.
However, Mr Tharoor said businesspeople accompanying him did not imply that they are going in a governmental programme "with a big heavy footprint into a new country".
"Instead we're saying tell us what your needs are and if our private sector can help fulfil these needs then talk to them," Mr Tharoor said.
On the Middle East, the minister said India, which already has good relations with the Gulf countries based on export of oil and gas and a large Indian diaspora, was now exploring news areas of interaction including investment.
He invited countries with an investible surplus to invest in India, which could ensure better returns than some of the developed countries.
"Opportunities for sustained and good rewards are far greater in our economy than in some of the economies of the developed West," he said.
The minister also pointed out that since India and countries in West Asia did not have many areas of strategic differences there was a good potential for geo-political cooperation as well.
"We have a shared interest in prosperity and stability in the region and as such we feel there is a lot more scope for a meaningful political and security dialogue with these countries," he said