Concerns over maritime security bond India, African nations

Experts at strategic dialogue explore ways to deal with terrorism, piracy, etc.

Stating that India and Africa face common challenges of terrorism and maritime security, a senior external affairs ministry official on Monday said that Africa is a resurgent continent and will acquire greater importance for India in the near future.

Dinkar Khullar, the newly-appointed secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, was speaking at the inaugural function of India-Africa Strategic Dialogue on common security challenges organised in the capital by the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA).

“The rise of terrorism has been the most disturbing security phenomenon. Long before 9/11, India and Africa faced the challenge of extremism,” said Khullar. He further stated that problems of piracy and maritime robbery have touched serious proportions in the Gulf of Guinea as well. “India has been mindful of the challenge and has taken steps with the support of African and other members of the Security Council,” he added.

Senior fellow at the Institute for Global Dialogue, Francis A Kornegay Jr., said that there should be an Indian Ocean South Atlantic dialogue, to address future maritime security concerns and evolve cooperation in the world’s most populous region. “There should be proper African Union and SAARC dialogue and may be setting up of an Indian Ocean security alliance to prepare a layout of future collaborations,” said Kornegay.

Trade between India and Africa, considered India’s “strategic neighbourhood” is largely seaborne, accounting for 97% trade by volume and 75% by value. Prof. Sujit Dutta of Jamia Milia University stressed on the need to secure the Indian Ocean. He said that India and Africa together can lay a new template of nation building by cooperation.

“As economy in India and Africa grows, the Indian Ocean will not only be a corridor but remain a center of economic activity. It has to be well guarded, especially when China increases its maritime activity,” said Dutta.

India’s influence on Africa can be gauged by the presence of Indian soldiers in almost all peace keeping missions on the continent. India has sent nearly 160,000 personnel over the years for UN mandated peacekeeping operations. “Our relations with Africa are unique,” said Khullar, adding: “We have to engage with the continent responsibly.”
IDSA research fellow Abhijeet Singh said that Africa and India must have a strategic relationship for longterm benefits. “India’s efforts in engaging with Africa need to be pro-active and prompt rather than reluctant,” said Singh.

The India-Africa dialogue was attended by representatives from different African countries.


Original Article