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India Seeks to Deepen Partnership with Africa

  • Anjana Pasricha

FILE - Autorickshaws much like these in central Hyderabad, India, were launched as part of a pilot program in the trendy Melville suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa in 2012, just one sign of growing ties between India and African nations.

FILE - Autorickshaws much like these in central Hyderabad, India, were launched as part of a pilot program in the trendy Melville suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa in 2012, just one sign of growing ties between India and African nations.

Calling India and Africa two bright spots of hope and opportunity in the global economy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wooed more than 40 African heads of state in New Delhi on Thursday with a promise of a “partnership for prosperity.”

Seeking to deepen political and economic partnership across the resource-rich continent, India announced $10 billion in credit to support Africa’s development at its third India-Africa summit, the southern Asian country's most ambitious diplomatic outreach to the continent with representation from virtually all of Africa’s 54 countries.

In exchange, India hopes for a share of Africa's vast natural resources to power its own growth. It also wants to ensure it is not completely overshadowed on the continent by China, which has plowed billions of dollars into Africa, building roads, bridges and power installations in return for access to markets and resources.

India's major imports from Africa are resources and minerals, including crude oil, coal, gemstones and gold. African countries are a big market for Indian-made pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles and processed petroleum products, with trade growing quickly.

“We will help connect Africa from Cairo to Cape Town, from Marrakesh to Mombassa, help develop your infrastructure, power and irrigation, help add value to your resources in Africa and set up industrial and information technology parks,” Modi said.

Modi also shared Africa's concern for security, especially from terrorism and extremism, and said he had confidence that African leaders and people would rise to those challenges. Several African nations — including Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Benin — have sought India's help to build up defense capacity so the military forces that are now fighting Boko Haram can be strengthened. Sanjiv Kohli, an Indian External Affairs Ministry official, told The Associated Press that India has promised to help train soldiers in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency tactics.

Heads of state present included presidents Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt. On Wednesday night many turned up for an official dinner in colorful Indian dress.

Eye on China

Like China, which has established an overwhelming presence in Africa, India wants enhanced economic ties even as it seeks access to the continent’s vast natural resources, particularly oil. Although India’s trade with Africa has doubled in less than a decade to over $70 billion, it still trails China’s $200 billion.

In addition to the $10 billion in new credit, Modi also unveiled another $600 million in grant aid to emphasize New Delhi’s commitment to African development. Much of India’s aid to Africa is spent on technical and educational institutions, and in areas such as healthcare, affordable medicines, agriculture and technology.

The prime minister called on Africa to join an alliance of “solar-rich” countries that he wants to launch at the upcoming climate summit in Paris for clean energy.

“When the sun sets, tens of millions of homes in India and Africa become dark," he said. "We want to light up lives of our people and power their future, but we want to do it in a way that the snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat and our islands are not doomed."

The Indian leader also wants New Delhi and Africa to speak in “one voice” at global trade talks to ensure they reflect the concerns of developing countries, and to push for reform of institutions such as the United Nations.

“This is a world of free nations and wakened aspirations," he said. "Our institutions cannot be representative of our world if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of U.N. members, or the world’s largest democracy, with one-sixth of humanity.”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe thanked India for its development work in Africa, but said there should be a "robust evaluation and follow up mechanism as some of the projects have been delayed."

"These are gifts highly appreciated by us. These do not come from those who have robbed us of our humanity," said Mugabe, who addressed the summit as chairman of the African Union.

Modi’s African outreach is part of his broader foreign policy agenda in which he has sought to expand India’s global footprint.

Portions of this report are from The Associated Press.

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