India to shun partnership with West in Africa

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: India will stay clear of aligning with Western countries in engaging with Africa and prefer to join hands with developing countries such as Brazil which are not “tainted” by a colonial past.

“We don’t want our approach tainted by their [the West] approach. We’ll talk about Africa to Africans, we will talk to Brazil about Africa but not to these countries. We should not be seen as exploiters in Africa. We want to be partners in the genuine sense of the word,” said a senior official of the External Affairs Ministry, ahead of a major Africa Forum Summit to be held here in early April.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have recently indicated their desire to work with India in Africa.

The summit, to be attended by 14 heads of African nations, would see India unveiling sectoral packages to economically benefit the least developed countries. The official declined to reveal the full details as some of these were still to be cleared at the highest level.

Pointing out that Africa was trying to become a more unified continent and that it realised that it had been “taken for a ride” by the former colonial powers, the official said the West was making a big issue of China entering the continent because its suzerainty was being threatened. “It is not that former colonial powers Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, etc, have gone away. Today, China is getting trashed. Tomorrow, as India’s engagements grow, it could also get a similar treatment,” he said.

“The whole idea is to go into areas where Africans want us to go. We do not operate in a mercantile manner,” the official said, pointing out that India would not resort to depredation of natural resources from another country.

Peacekeeping job

India had been an enthusiastic participant in United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKO) in Africa for nearly five decades. But its motives were altruistic. “We never used PKOs to extract mileage.

The U.S. and Europe were surprised to see us sending troops only to restore peace.” At present, there are 3,500 Indian peacekeepers in Congo, 3,000 in southern Sudan and 600 in Ethiopia.

India’s engagement with Africa in the last 10-15 years had undergone a qualitative change. From being the first country to start skill upgrade programmes for Africans, Indian public and private sector companies started making inroads.

India also extended lines of credit although only $1.2 billion out of $2 billions was operationalised so far.

In addition, New Delhi started expanding its geographical footprint, entering non-English speaking countries such as Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad.

Another major part of the engagement is security. India has traditionally trained several military and police personnel from African countries.

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