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  • 16 Aug 2019 GS Paper 2 Polity & Governance

    India’s Indo-pacific strategy reflects the neglect of strategically important Africa. Comment (250 words)

    Approach

    Approach:

    • Explain about India’s Indo-Pacific strategy in the introduction.
    • Mention the importance of Africa for India in the Indo-pacific and the neglect of Africa in India’s strategy.
    • Conclude by suggesting an approach that India should follow in its Africa outreach.

    Introduction

    • Geographically, Indo-Pacific refers to the Indian and the Pacific Oceans between the east coast of Africa and the American west coast and their several littoral countries.
    • The region is of great strategic importance for India and has elevated India to a position of prominence in the region in the context of countering the rise of China. In this, Africa plays a key role in guiding India’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

    Body

    Importance of Africa for India can be seen in the following areas:

    • Geo-Economic: Energy security - Oil (Nigeria), the supply of Uranium (South Africa), huge mineral resources of Africa, growing population of Africa provides for new opportunities for goods and services exports from India.
    • Geo-Strategic: Maritime security - East coast countries of Africa are important for peace and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region, trade relations across and beyond Africa and interests of Indian diaspora in Africa.
    • Geo-Political: South-South cooperation, UNSC reforms, competition with China, cooperation in global issues such as climate change and WTO reforms.

    Africa is witnessing a phenomenon called the “New Scramble for Africa". Apart from the Western countries, the region is of renewed interest among the countries like China, India, Japan, and Korea which are competing for gaining strategic edge over others.

    However, India’s Indo-Pacific strategy shows neglect of Africa as is evident from the following:

    • India-US Relations: India’s approach is to ally with USA’s ambitions to counter China as was observed in Shangri La Dialogue (2018). USA’s vision of Indo-Pacific extends from west coast of India to West coast of the USA with India at the centre and thus shows lack of interest in Africa.
    • India has put the focus on ASEAN and ‘Look East’ in every Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue and neglected African outreach.
    • Though trade between and Africa increased five-fold in the last decade, it has been declining in recent years. From $US 71.5 billion in 2014-15 to $US 56.7 billion in 2016-17 and further dropped to $51.96 billion in 2016-17.
    • It has been argued that finalization of Mega Regional Trade Agreements (MRTA) like RCEP, will negatively impact India-Africa bilateral trade due to erosion of preferences and increased completion in the MRTA markets.

    Conclusion

    • Hence, India’s African policy has oscillated between passive and reluctantly reactive at best. India’s long neglect and inadequate capacities has serious disadvantages vis-à-vis China’s strategic push and economic muscle.
    • The scale and speed of Africa’s current transformation need to be a priority on India's strategic map.
    • India needs to work upon its commitment to Asia Africa Growth Corridor in cooperation with Japan.
    • Strategy to engage in multilateral development partnerships through platforms like India-Africa Forum Summits should be a key priority.
    • India needs to leverage its diaspora to increase people-to-people contacts.
    • India should not only engage with continental African nations but there should be a renewed focus on the island nations specifically Mozambique, Comoros and Seychelles due to their strategic location in the Indian Ocean.
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