India to send new Defence Attachés in multiple missions in Africa

The move is being implemented as India deals with dynamic situations in Indo-Pacific, Red Sea-Indian Ocean and Eurasia

April 10, 2024 10:05 pm | Updated April 11, 2024 12:21 am IST - NEW DELHI

Image used for representative purpose only.

Image used for representative purpose only. | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

In a sign of expanding focus on military diplomacy, India is set to send Defence Attachés (DA) to a number of its missions in Africa for the first time, sources here have confirmed. The move is part of a larger adjustment of the DA in Indian missions scattered across continents and regions and is being implemented as India deals with dynamic situations in Indo-Pacific, Red Sea-Indian Ocean and Eurasia.

A source privy to the internal discussion informed that out of all the continents, it is Africa that is expected to get four new DA. Out of that one DA is likely to be sent to the Francophone western Africa, and three others are expected to be sent to three countries in eastern and southeastern Africa. Indian missions in countries such as Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Djibouti are being discussed as part of the process. In the meanwhile, a number of DA posted to Indian missions abroad underwent a three-day pre-deployment training programme at the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service this week.

Apart from the four countries in Africa, the Indian embassy in Poland is scheduled to get a new DA. At present the DA in the Indian embassy in the Czech Republic concurrently serves for the Indian mission in Warsaw.

The readjustment in the post of DA in multiple regions is part of India’s evolving requirements that stretch from defence production and cooperation, to dealing with crisis situations that hinge on urgent mobilisation. The crises in Gaza and Ukraine have both highlighted the need for finding a more effective management of the DA in East Europe and Eurasia and in the East African region that is crucial for guarding Indian interests in the Red Sea and the western Indian Ocean. In March, Indian marine commandos captured 35 Somalian pirates who had hijacked a bulk carrier and taken hostages. The pirates were brought to Mumbai in INS Kolkata. The operation took place in the backdrop of continued attacks on western ships by the Houthi rebels of Yemen which has increased the necessity of maintaining a ready defence posture in and around the Red Sea-western Indian Ocean region for safeguarding Indian assets and manpower.

Similar new appointments and changes in the post of DA are also expected to take place in the Indian missions in the United Kingdom, Russia, Philippines, Armenia. While Philippines and Armenia will host Indian DA for the first time, in case of Russia, the number of attachés is expected to be reduced. Sources maintained that it is being done as part of “rationalisation” as several India-Russia defence projects have been completed, therefore, calling for adjustments in the Indian embassy in Moscow.

New development

The focus on Francophone Africa is a new development and indicates growing alignment between Indian and French strategic interests that was visible during French President Emmanuel Macron’s January visit when the two sides agreed on working together in ‘third countries’. France has become a major supplier of military hardware for the Indian forces and the relation between the two sides is expected to remain strong because of high level political, military and strategic collaboration. 

The new role of the DA in the Indian embassy in Philippines has to be seen in the context of Manila’s interest in the Indian military hardware because of its dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea. In January, the Philippines inked a deal worth $375 million with Brahmos Aerospace Pvt Ltd for the purchase of shore-based anti-ship variant of the Brahmos missile systems. Armenia too has emerged as a new destination for Indian military hardware as Yerevan has purchased the PINAKA multi barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs), anti-tank missiles, rockets and anti-drone systems from India. The Indian weapons supplied to Yerevan have to be seen in the context of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and India’s cold relation with Azerbaijan that has often raised the Kashmir issue in the past.

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