Taking exception to the Western portrayals of the emerging Asian powers engaging in a “scramble for Africa,” India on Monday said the West had a vested interest in portraying the business ventures launched by itself and China on the continent in a negative light.

“The West is setting up Africa as a zone of contention,” a senior Indian official travelling with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Second Africa-India Forum summit said here on Monday. “They want to play India against China. They want us to be at each other's throat.”

The official noted that the large Chinese presence in Africa was mostly focused on infrastructure, raw materials and extractive industries and was concentrated in major projects and ventures. India's presence, on the other hand, was on a smaller scale and scattered throughout the continent. “We feel there is enough space for India and what it is good at, especially capacity-building, skills development and training,” he added. What the West, and some in India also, saw as China “outsmarting” India was in reality a reflection of the different approach the two Asian powers had adopted in their engagement with Africa.

“Africa has tremendous economic potential. It's a continent on the move. For us, it's an opportunity, and for the rest of the world also it is an opportunity,” the official said.

Dr. Singh arrived in the Ethiopian capital on Monday afternoon.