22 July 2019

India’s Africa Policy

Dr Christian Wagner

Since the 1990s, India has significantly widened its relations with Africa. Three summits, increasing trade and newly agreed cooperation on security demonstrate the increased importance of the African continent to India’s foreign policy.

With this commitment to Africa, India continually underscores its claim to act as advocate for the countries of the Global South. Moreover, African countries now account for a larger share of India’s energy imports, thereby reducing its dependence on Middle Eastern countries. India is also trying to establish a counterweight to China’s activities in Africa. However, India’s decision-makers realise that they cannot seriously compete with China in this arena.

Germany and India share a number of similar economic and political inter­ests. There is therefore great potential for closer cooperation in Africa and the Indian Ocean. The common goal is to strengthen state institutions in Africa, to promote economic development, and to prevent African states from becoming unilaterally dependent on third countries, especially China. This could potentially be translated into a number of programmes as part of triangular cooperation between India, Germany and African countries, such as capacity building, initial and further training, and the strengthening of small and medium-sized enterprises. Particularly in the context of the stra­tegic partnership between India and Germany, this could be an important step in taking bilateral relations to a new level.

Issues and Conclusions

Since gaining independence in 1947, the Indian Union has developed good relations with African states. Initially, the focus was on political issues such as support for decolonisation. Later, India advanced cooperation in international organisations within the framework of South-South cooperation, thus reinforc­ing its claim to act as a representative of developing countries. Since 1991, when liberalisation began in India, economic and security issues have increasingly come to the fore.

The African continent has gained greater impor­tance for India since the 1990s. The most obvious evidence for this are the three India-Africa summits in 2008, 2011 and 2015. The most significant shift is that India has imported more energy from African countries and thus successfully diversified its energy imports. It has thus been able to reduce its dependence on the Middle East. Africa is also relevant to India’s global ambitions. India continues to see itself as an advocate for the Global South and finds support for this role especially in Africa. The voting weight of African states plays an important part in a reform of the United Nations (UN) and India’s aspiration for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Moreover, the volume of trade between India and Africa has increased significantly since the 1990s. However, Africa’s share of India’s foreign trade is still rather small compared to that of Asia, Europe or the Middle East. Indian governments have tried to appeal to the Indian diaspora using various initiatives since the 1990s and have also encouraged it to invest more in India – yet this is proving to be relatively difficult in the African context. With a few exceptions, African countries do not have very large Indian populations. Moreover, many members of this group, not least on the advice of former Indian governments, have now adopted the citizenship of their African home coun­tries.

In geopolitical terms, India’s Africa policy is of inter­est both in its relations with China and with Ger­many and Europe. There is often talk of compe­tition between India and China in Africa. Yet the foreign policy makers in New Delhi are well aware that they do not have the means and instruments to compete with China in Africa. Nevertheless, China does play a role in India’s foreign policy towards Africa. Formats such as the summits with Africa are presumably based on comparable Chinese initiatives. Furthermore, in response to the Chinese Belt and Road Ini­tiative (BRI), India has developed new foreign policy strategies, such as the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), which is to be implemented jointly with Japan.

The shift in India’s foreign policy towards closer cooperation with partners in third countries also opens up new opportunities for cooperation with Ger­many and the European Union (EU). This idea was first formulated in 2008, but was not followed up by India at the time.

Regions such as Africa and the Indian Ocean, where Germany and India have a number of common interests, are ideal for such cooperation. First, both states are keen to secure sea routes in the Indian Ocean and to take action against piracy. From a Ger­man perspective, this is also meant to combat the causes of forced displacement and to reduce migration flows. Second, Germany and India want to pre­vent African states from becoming too politically and economically dependent on China due to increasing debt.

Given their overlapping interests, Germany and India have great potential for future closer coopera­tion in Africa or the Indian Ocean. The two states share a concern to establish and strengthen state in­stitutions and promote economic development with­in Africa. This could be translated into a number of pro­grammes, such as capacity building, initial and further training, and the strengthening of small and medium-sized enterprises. Especially in the context of their strategic partnership, this might be an impor­tant step that could take bilateral relations between India and Germany to a new level.

An Outline of India’s Africa Policy

India has significantly increased its engagement with African states since the 1990s. The most visible ex­pres­sion of this was the three India-Africa summits in 2008, 2011 and 2015, and the noticeable increase in trade between the two parties.

Africa has traditionally played an important role in Indian foreign policy.

The African continent has traditionally played a major political role in Indian foreign policy. Indian governments have supported the anti-colonial lib­era­tion movements in African countries and worked closely with them in the Non-Aligned Movement and the G77. Economically, however, the African con­tinent was for a long time not particularly interesting for India, since the latter’s economic policy had a strong domestic focus. It was not until the liberalisation of India post-1991 that Africa became more im­portant as an economic partner, especially in view of India’s growing demand for energy.

Why should India’s Africa policy be of interest to German and European foreign policy? In 2000 India and Germany agreed on a strategic partnership; they have considerably expanded their political, economic, technological, cultural and military cooperation since then. Internationally, both states pursue shared inter­ests, including reform of the United Nations, the maintenance of a rule-based international order, and the associated strengthening of multilateral institutions.

On the global level, the rise of China and the re­sult­ing changes in the international order represent a significant challenge for Germany and India. Ger­many had long considered China above all as one of its most important economic partners. But since China has begun taking over more and more Euro­pean high-tech companies in the critical infrastruc­ture sector, and has become increasingly involved in Central Eastern Europe, its economic activities under the aegis of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have been interpreted more critically, including by Ger­many. India has traditionally been regarded as China’s rival, even though bilateral relations have improved markedly since the Doklam crisis of 2017.1 But the Indian Union is one of the few states in Asia to refuse to participate in the BRI.

As regards regional issues, India and Germany also have a number of common interests. First, the Indian Ocean is of great strategic importance to both. As a leading trading nation, Germany has an overriding interest in secure world trade, the main routes of which include the Indian Ocean. The threat to the sea lanes of communication posed by pirates, for instance off the Horn of Africa, or a race for geostrategic zones of influence in the region thus directly affect German and European interests. The same applies to India, which wants to increase its influence in the global economy. Furthermore, India is highly dependent on energy imports from the Middle East and Africa and thus also depends on safe shipping routes in the In­dian Ocean. For several years, India has been pur­suing a policy of security partnership with Indian Ocean island states so as to counter China’s growing involvement in the region.

Second, there is an intersection between the stra­tegic interests of German and Indian politics in parts of Africa. For German policymakers, Africa’s eco­nomic development is also essential in terms of curb­ing migration flows. This was emphasised by the Ger­man G20 Presidency 2016/17 by its focus on Africa. By contrast, African states have some political relevance for India, mainly as partners in international organi­sations. Although India’s economic relations with Africa have improved significantly, the African con­tinent as a whole continues to play only a minor role. A common interest between Germany and India with regard to Africa might be to prevent excessive politi­cal and economic dependence of African states on China, for example through growing indebtedness. Finally, for India and Germany the voting weight of the African states in the United Nations is significant for a possible reform of the Security Council.

Proposals for closer cooperation between India and Germany were already made in 2008. They were re­jected by India at the time, which evidently did not want to endanger its own initiatives and credibility by cooperating with former colonial powers. India was therefore considering cooperation with Brazil in Africa, rather than with the United Kingdom or Ger­many.2

Due to China’s growing influence in Africa, the continent has also become a stage for India to com­pete for spheres of power and influence. However, India has considerably fewer foreign policy resources than China when it comes to pursuing its own inter­ests. For this reason, the Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in response to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, has since 2014 developed or revived several forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation. India wants to counteract China’s grow­ing influence in the Indo-Pacific, which also encompasses the Indian Ocean and East Africa.

India’s increasing bilateral cooperation with the USA, Japan and Australia is part of this endeavour. The Quadrilateral Meeting (“Quad”) of the four states, which was renewed in 2017, sent a clear signal to China, although the future shape and direction of this institution remains unclear. In 2017, India and Japan agreed to create an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). The two governments are trying to push ahead with infrastructure projects in the countries bordering the Indian Ocean and in Africa so as to reduce Chinese influence. In 2018 India and France signed an agreement that will allow the Indian Navy to use French facilities in the Indian Ocean. The Euro­pean Union – with its Asia Connectivity Policy and its new Strategy on India in autumn 2018 – also intro­duced new instruments aimed at closer cooperation with India in third countries.

Considering this change in Indian foreign policy, which today more than ever seeks cooperation with Western states, new opportunities are opening up for joint Indo-German initiatives in third countries. The overall aim of this study is to identify the interests, goals and changes of India’s Africa policy over recent years. This analysis can then be translated into pre­limi­nary measures for closer cooperation between Germany and India. The regional focus is on sub-Saharan Africa.

Phases in India-Africa relations

Relations before 1991

The African continent played an important role in Indian foreign policy from the outset. India was one of the first states to achieve independence after the end of the Second World War, in 1947. The work of Mahatma Gandhi – who had returned from South Africa to British India in 1914, where he had joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and fought peace­fully against the British colonial power – served as an inspiration for the awakening of African national­ism in the 1950s and 1960s.3 India’s Africa policy initially had two priorities:4 First, supporting anti-colonial liberation movements and the fight against apartheid regimes in South Africa and Namibia;5 second, the future relationship of ethnic Indian populations in Africa and the Indian Union.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Indian governments sup­ported African liberation movements in various ways, including in the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth. In 1986, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi succeeded in establishing an Africa Fund within the Non-Aligned Movement. India initially contributed 500 million rupees to the fund, which inter alia co-financed front states and liberation movements in South Africa and Namibia.6 As part of its anti-apartheid policy, India also trained over 300 supporters of the African National Congress (ANC).7

After independence, the Indian government was faced with the question of how to deal with Indian populations in Africa. As far back as pre-colonial times, Indian traders had settled in East Africa amidst maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. During British colonial rule, more Indians had come to Africa and had, in some cases, assumed tasks in the colonial ad­ministration. In Ethiopia this led to the concept of teacher becoming almost synonymous with that of “Indian”; in Mauritius the Indian population became the largest community.8

Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru argued that diaspora groups should integrate politically into their respective African societies and not claim spe­cial economic rights over the local population.9 In some African countries, Indian populations also occu­pied a prominent position in trade and the economy.10 The Madhvanis and Mehtas families dominated parts of the economy in Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyi­ka, part of today’s Tanzania. Individual representatives of the Indian community were given important political offices in the new states. For example, Naren­dra Patel became the Speaker of Parliament in Uganda.11

Following independence, a number of African states such as Kenya and Uganda opted for a policy of “Africanisation” vis-à-vis non-African groups. This also affected the Indian population in many countries. At the time, however, the Indian government supported Africanisation and therefore showed no willingness to act as an advocate for Indian ethnic groups abroad. When Kenyan President Jomo Ken­yatta, as part of his nationalisation policy, called on the Indian population to leave the country, only a few members were able to go to India, since most did not hold Indian citizenship. A low point for the Indian diaspora was the 1972 expulsion from Uganda under the Idi Amin regime.12 This fluctuating history of the Indian-born population in Africa, and the long neglect of their concerns by the Indian government, have led to the fact that large parts of the Indian-born population today feel more committed to their Afri­can home states.13

Based on the shared colonial experiences of India and Africa, the Indian government worked closely with African states in the newly created international institutions. From the outset, India saw itself as the representative and spokesman of these developing countries and promoted closer South-South cooperation. It was supported by many African states in forums such as the G77 in the UN and in the Non-Aligned Movement. From the beginning, India also cooperated closely with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), founded in 1963.14

Since the Indian Union pursued an economic policy of import substitution until 1991, economic issues initially played a very minor role in bilateral relations. An important foreign policy instrument, however, was South-South cooperation through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, which began in 1964 and included many representatives of African states.

New Africa Policy since 1991

The year 1991 marked a turning point in Indian politics. The balance of payments crisis at the time – triggered in part by the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was then India’s most important trading part­ner – led to comprehensive economic policy reforms and a departure from the previous model of domestic, market-oriented development. Since then, all Indian governments have relied on foreign direct investment, technology transfer, export promotion, and stronger integration into the world market.

The associated liberalisation also had various effects on foreign policy with regard to Africa. As well as India’s new interest in expanding economic rela­tions, other factors emerged: issues such as energy security and import diversification have now been given much more weight in India’s foreign policy; China’s growing engagement in Africa has intensified competition for resources and influence; and India reassessed its diaspora in the 1990s, correspondingly regarding it as a potential foreign policy instrument. This policy reversal also had consequences for Africa.

In some areas, however, India’s interests in Africa remained constant. Its involvement there has under­pinned its claim to international leadership as an advocate of the Global South, a claim it has repeatedly made since the 1970s. India is committed to reforming the United Nations and is seeking a permanent seat on the Security Council. To facilitate such a reform, the weight of African states’ votes is key. In secu­rity matters, the fight against terrorism and pira­cy has also taken precedence in relations with Africa, in addition to the UN’s blue helmet missions.15

Political Relations

The India-Africa summits are the most visible sign of Africa’s increased importance in Indian foreign policy. They were partly a reaction by India to China’s increasing involvement in Africa.16 The Chinese gov­ernment held its first meeting with African ministers in 2000 and since then has successively increased its political and economic involvement in the conti­nent.17 In the face of competition for resources and spheres of influence, India has had to develop new formats for its future Africa policy.

India reinforces its claim to continue to act as advocate for the Global South.

The summits were supposed to take place every three years, alternately in India and Africa. The first was held in New Delhi in April 2008. The 14 African states whose representatives participated were selected by the African Union (AU). In the Africa-India Framework for Cooperation agreed at the summit, the two sides agreed on nine areas of cooperation. India approved US$5.4 billion in new credit lines and grant­ed African Least Developed Countries (LDCs) tariff con­cessions in order to boost trade.18

The second meeting, this time with 15 African coun­tries, took place in May 2011 in Addis Ababa. The Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation adopted at the meeting extended bilateral co­operation to other areas.19 India pledged US$5 billion in new loans and announced US$700 million to help build new institutions and put together education measures in Africa.20 Furthermore, the country awarded 400 new scholarships for African students and 500 additional training places in the ITEC pro­gramme. The then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that the number of African students in India would thereby increase to over 22,000.21

The third summit meeting between India and the African states had to be postponed in 2014 because of the Ebola outbreak, and was held in New Delhi in October 2015.22 At the first two summits, the number of participants was limited to ten to 15 African Union countries. At the latest summit in 2015, there were no more restrictions. High-ranking representatives from over 40 African states took part, making it a great dip­lo­matic success for India.23 The Indian government also expanded the agenda. Whereas until then the main focus had been on issues such as loans and de­vel­opment aid projects, in 2015 the Indian govern­ment emphasised above all security policy issues and the desire to work together to combat terrorism.24

These improved political relations are also reflected in the shuttle diplomacy of high-ranking Indian poli­ti­cians.25 Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in 2014, each African country has been visited by at least one Indian minister.26 The Prime Minister himself has visited several African countries, most recently for the summit of the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), held in South Africa in the summer of 2018.27

Finally, the Indian government also plans to ex­pand its political presence in Africa. At the beginning of 2018, India had 29 embassies in African countries. To do justice to the growing importance of the con­tinent, it plans to open 18 new embassies by 2021, which would mean an increase of over 60 per cent. These are not only to extend economic relations, but also to further strengthen links with the diaspora.28

The Indian Diaspora

The Indian diaspora consists of two different groups of people, so-called Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs). The NRIs are Indian citizens who have emigrated. The PIOs, on the other hand, have Indian ancestors, but have assumed the citizenship of their new home country and are there­fore not Indian citizens.

The total size of the Indian diaspora is estimated at between 25 and 30 million people globally. Eleven states have at least one million each, and a further 22 states have at least 1,000 each.29 Africa accounts for around 8 per cent of the total Indian diaspora. The largest groups are in South Africa (about 1.5 million), Mauritius (855,000), Réunion (220,000), Kenya (100,000), Tanzania (100,000) and Uganda (90,000).30

Particularly in the island states of the Indian Ocean, the diaspora accounts for a large proportion of the total population. In Mauritius, the proportion of the population of Indian origin is over 60 per cent, in Réunion 31 per cent and in the Seychelles around 6 per cent. In the territorial states, on the other hand, the highest share is only 2.5 per cent (South Africa); the share is much lower in Botswana (0.66 per cent), Kenya (0.3) and Tanzania (0.28), for example.31 In contrast to the Indian diaspora in the USA, the frag­mentation and very small population numbers in African states make it difficult for the Indian gov­ern­ment to address Indian ethnic groups.32

In the 1950s, Nehru still advocated the integration of the Indian diaspora into their respective states; in the 1990s the role of the diaspora within Indian foreign policy was fundamentally reassessed. One of the reasons for this was China’s positive experience. Chinese ethnic groups abroad made a significant con­tribution to China’s economic upswing by their in­vest­ments in their home country. The Indian gov­ernment set up a new department in the mid-1990s to better support various groups of Indian people abroad. The focus was on the Indian community in the USA, which has been economically very successful. It is largely thanks to its political commitment that bilateral relations between the two largest de­moc­racies have improved. Furthermore, the diaspora is seen as part of India’s soft power in partner coun­tries, helping to enhance India’s image.33

When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took office in 1999, it intensified its efforts towards the diaspora. In September 2000, the government set up a high-level commission to make new proposals that would encourage relations with the diaspora. The Commission’s report, published in January 2002, inter alia proposed the possibility of dual citizenship for NRIs and PIOs resident mainly in Western industrialised countries.34

Since taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has been intensively involved with the diaspora during his trips abroad. As part of his first visit to America in September of the same year, he gave a speech aimed at the Indian diaspora at Madison Square Garden in New York. Modi made similar ap­pearances during his travels to Great Britain and Australia. On a visit to Uganda in the summer of 2018, Modi also addressed the Indian community in the country.35

The relatively small size of groups of Indian origin, the lack of Indian government support for them, and the success of their integration into African states explain why this new foreign policy initiative initially met with little interest in Africa. The high fees in­volved meant that the newly introduced ID card for PIOs had little initial approval.36 Furthermore, a study conducted in 2006 showed that significantly more people of Indian descent had taken on the citizenship of their new home country than, for example, the Chinese had.37 In 2006 the Indian government intro­duced the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) pro­gramme, which facilitated a limited form of dual citizenship for NRIs and PIOs.38

Economic Cooperation

In contrast to Western industrial nations, which separate their economic and development cooperation, the two areas are closely interlinked in India. Officially, India does not engage in development cooperation (DC), but South-South cooperation. This term is deliberately intended to set India apart from Western development cooperation.39 As well as tra­ditional bilateral trade, South-South cooperation comprises various instruments and serves capacity building, lending, and both export and economic promotion for Indian companies.40Normative con­siderations, such as the issue of democracy, have no role here. India supports many African countries tech­nically and administratively to build democratic systems. This does not, however, correspond to West­ern policies of democracy promotion.

Trade and Energy

As early as 2002, India’s state-owned Export-Import Bank (EXIM) launched the Focus Africa Programme to expand economic relations with selected states in the region. The initial focus was on Ethiopia, Kenya and Mauritius. In due course Nigeria, South Africa, Ethio­pia, Tanzania and Ghana were also added. Lending to these countries has been expanded to support their imports of goods and services from India. Furthermore, Indian companies wanting to export to these coun­tries received a special status and stronger sup­port from the respective Indian embassies on the ground.41

In 2004 India, together with eight West African states,42 launched the so-called TEAM-9 initiative (Techno-Economic Approach for Africa-India Move­ment), which also aimed to expand economic rela­tions. Equatorial Guinea was of particular importance at that time. With this initiative, India wanted to par­ticipate in the development of oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea.43 During the first summit in 2008, India implemented a series of tariff reductions for African Least Developed Countries.

These various initiatives have contributed to a significant expansion of trade. The volume of trade between India and African countries grew from US$5.3 billion in 2001 to 12 billion in 2005 and 70 billion in 2013. At the World Economic Forum in Delhi in 2014, the two sides reaffirmed their inten­tion to reach a trade volume of US$500 billion by 2020. As well as expanding trade, the Indian gov­ern­ment supports private investors and aims to diversify trade. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), for example, has organised nine India-Africa meetings for its member companies.44

However, trade has been declining in recent years. The trade volume fell from US$71.5 billion in the 2014/15 financial year to 56.7 billion in 2015/16, and finally to just under 52 billion in 2016/17. In addition, the trade balance is now in Africa’s favour. While India still managed a trade surplus of US$2.1 billion in the 2005/06 financial year, this turned into a defi­cit of US$6.6 billion in 2015/16. The main reason for this was the price rise in oil and raw materials.45

Furthermore, India’s trade is currently concentrated on only a few states and products. The six African states of Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Moroc­co and Algeria are responsible for 89 per cent of exports to India. The product focus is on energy and raw materials such as oil, gas, ores and gold.46 Oil and gas exports alone now account for two thirds of African exports to India. With a share of around 24 per cent, the African continent has become an important energy supplier for India.47 In 2005, there had hardly been any energy supplies from Africa.

India imports more energy from Africa and is now less dependent on the Middle East.

The new importance of energy exports has also changed African countries’ significance for trade. In 2001, Southern Africa still accounted for around 60 perc ent of exports to India, compared with only 16 per cent from West Africa. By 2011, the picture had changed. In that year, about 40 per cent of exports to India came from West Africa, while Southern Africa’s share had fallen to 24 per cent. East African states, with their traditionally high proportion of Indian-born inhabitants, are the most important market for Indian products, but accounted for only two per cent of African exports to India in 2011.48 West Africa gained its new importance primarily through oil and energy imports, especially from Nigeria and states on the Gulf of Guinea.

South Africa is India’s most important trading partner, accounting for over 22 per cent of India’s exports. Tanzania has shown the greatest growth in recent years and now accounts for over 9 per cent of India’s exports to the whole of Africa. Indian exports are main­ly refined petroleum products, cars and car parts, pharmaceuticals, and electrical and industrial machinery. There are regional differences. India ex­ports mainly petroleum products to East and South­ern Africa, pharmaceuticals to West and Central Af­rica, and vehicles and vehicle parts to North Africa.49

African countries are interesting for India not only as suppliers of oil and gas, but also of uranium. Since India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), relations with states such as Niger and Na­mibia, which are not members of the Nuclear Sup­pliers Group (NSG), are of great strategic interest to India.50

Alongside its bilateral relations, India cooperates with a number of regional organisations in Africa. Since 2006 there has been cooperation between the Indian state and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).51 The Indian Exim Bank also supports the Common Market for Eastern and South­ern Africa (COMESA) through loans and credits to encourage the participating states to buy more Indian goods and products.52 African institutions also reward development cooperation with India. In 2017, the African Development Bank held its annual meeting in the Indian state of Gujarat, which had previously been governed by Prime Minister Modi.53

India also works in regional organisations such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) with island states and East African rim states. The organisation was founded in 1997 by India, South Africa, Australia and Singapore. India played a major role in the reori­en­tation of the IORA in 2013. Since then, maritime security issues have received greater attention in its work.54

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) initiated by India at the 2015 Africa Summit focuses on the expan­sion and increased use of solar energy. In recent years, India has been able to win over several more African countries for the ISA.55 Finally, special rela­tions still exist with states such as South Africa: in the BRICS format and the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), both advocate reorganising the international system.56

South-South Cooperation

Despite its economic successes and high growth rates since 1991, India is still one of the largest recipients of official development assistance from both multi­lateral organizations and bilateral donors. In early 2018, the total volume of German development co­operation with India was 8.5 billion euros.57 However, as early as 1964 India itself started to finance devel­op­ment measures in other countries through its ITEC programme. ITEC has become one of the most im­por­tant foreign policy instruments for developing South-South cooperation, including relations with Africa.

India has pursued development measures in Africa for decades, thus increasing its influence there.

When attributing its development programmes, India is not guided by the criteria of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC), in which most donor countries have committed themselves to uniform standards. India follows the DAC criteria as a recipient country, but not as a donor country.58 This would involve a number of commitments in other policy areas that Indian governments reject as in­admissible interference in their internal affairs.

The first priority of India’s development cooperation is education and training in areas such as finance and accounting, information technology, promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, languages, rural development, the environment and renewable energies.59These programmes are aimed primarily at senior civil servants, scientists, politicians and mili­tary personnel from countries of the Global South, but are overwhelmingly held at institutions in India. From India’s perspective, these measures are intended to share its own experiences and thus strengthen South-South cooperation.60 In addition to ITEC, there are similar measures in the Special Commonwealth Assistance for Africa Programme (SCAAP) and the Tech­nical Cooperation Scheme (TCS) of the 1951 Colombo Plan. ITEC also sends Indian experts (includ­ing military advisors) abroad, prepares project studies, conducts study trips, and provides funds for disaster relief.61 Furthermore, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) offers 3,365 scholarships annually for a total of 24 programmes, of which approximately 900 are earmarked for Africa.62

These programmes have probably helped to strength­en India’s position as the advocate for devel­oping countries over the years. By 2006/07, 40,000 people had completed events as part of the programmes.63 In 2013/14, applicants from 161 countries were offered a total of 8,000 places in 280 courses at 47 educational institutions in India.64 This means that, to date, well over 50,000 people from politics, busi­ness and administration in developing countries have probably been to India for education and train­ing purposes. The Indian government boasts, for ex­ample, that so far 13 incumbent or former presi­dents, prime ministers and vice-presidents from African states have taken part in training programmes in India. Moreover, there are six current or former army chiefs who were trained at institutions in India.65

The ITEC programme is managed by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) so that the allo­cation of training places and scholarships can be adapted relatively quickly to changing foreign policy objectives.

However, the regional distribution shows that Africa still does not play a major role in overall resource allocation. The ITEC programme continues to focus on India’s South Asian neighbours. In 2013/ 14, more than 80 per cent of all development funds went to neighbouring countries, mainly Bhutan (48.8 per cent), Bangladesh (10.7 per cent) and Afghanistan (9.7 per cent). In contrast, all African countries to­gether received only 4.6 per cent.66

The second pillar of development cooperation is loans and subsidies to developing countries by the state-owned Export-Import Bank. In recent years, India has continuously expanded its financial com­mit­ment to South-South cooperation and in 2014/15 recorded a total of 194 credit lines for 63 countries amounting to US$11.7 billion.67

The bulk of the financial support, US$6.6 billion, went to African countries.68 Between 2006 and 2015, African countries accounted for around 58 per cent of all loans and credits.69 The money is mainly used to expand economic relations with India, and for the activities of Indian companies in Africa. For example, the Focus Africa programme included credit lines to facilitate the export of Indian goods to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The loans are thus not so much development funds, but rather economic development funds for private and state-owned Indian enterprises.70

The most important sectors for Indian companies in this context are agriculture, pharmaceuticals, in­for­mation technology, finance, textiles, energy and the automotive sector.71 All major international Indian companies – such as ArcelorMittal, Vedanta Resources, the Tata Group and Airtel – are represented in Africa.

India is also active in a number of ways in Africa’s infrastructure development. India first established a technical college in Nairobi in 1956. Indian companies laid a pipeline from Khartoum to Port Sudan in 2009; Indian companies such as Airtel have attractive offers for many African countries for electronic pay­ment systems in rural areas.72 Inter alia, the Tata Group operates a coffee-processing factory in Uganda and a vehicle plant in Zambia, thus helping those states to diversify their exports.73 Indian pharmaceu­tical companies such as Ranbaxy have expanded their production in Africa. Due to World Trade Organisation (WTO) exemptions, they are able to produce in­expensive medicines to fight HIV/AIDS. These inex­pen­sive Indian medicines have significantly increased the proportion of AIDS patients undergoing treat­ment, for example in Nigeria.74

India has supported the establishment of pan-African institutions with many projects. Showcase projects include the Pan African E-Network Project with three universities in Ghana, Cameroon and Uganda and a telemedicine centre in Tanzania.75 Other examples are the India-Africa Institute of For­eign Trade, the India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development, the India-Africa Civil Avia­tion Academy, the India-Africa Institute of Edu­cation, Planning and Administration, and the India-Africa Institute of Information Technology.76

India is also supporting a number of African coun­tries such as Ethiopia in computerising their customs systems in order to improve trade processing.77 India is participating with its loan of US$300 million in the new railway line between Ethiopia and Djibouti.78 Another focus of cooperation with African countries is on low-cost housing programmes, which are being operated jointly with Zambia, Kenya, Togo and Mau­ritania, among others.79

Official announcements cast development cooperation in a positive light, but there are also negative as­pects. The African market sets high hurdles for Indian companies, for example. Company representatives com­plain about a lack of information about re­spec­tive national markets in Africa, different standards, and deficits in infrastructure.80 Other criticisms in­clude high transport costs, a poor business climate, widespread corruption and difficult access to fi­nance.81 Indian companies are considered vulnerable to bribery, probably due to the high level of corruption in their own country.82 Indian companies are also accused of land grabs, for example in Ethiopia. Land acquisition in Africa is particularly interesting for major investors, as land prices are often lower than in India. For example, Indian food companies can acquire much larger areas of land than in India and outsource their production for the Indian market to third countries at low cost.83 In this context, parts of the local population` were expelled repeatedly.84 When the Canadian oil company Talisman had to sell two oil fields in Sudan due to pressure from human rights organisations, they were acquired by the Indian state oil company ONGC Videsh Limited.85

Against this background, it was suggested that Indian companies should strengthen their commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) prin­ciples, so as to contribute to improving the business climate and their reputation among Africans.86

The Indian state’s development projects and private companies in Africa also frequently suffer from poor implementation. This concerns both their speed and scope. Indian companies seem to have great – and oft-lamented – difficulties in effectively im­ple­menting their projects in Africa.87

Cultural exchanges, for instance through scholarships and the growing number of African students in India, also often lead to problems. There are huge prejudices against African students amongst the Indian population,88 and there have been several violent attacks. After the killing of a Congolese stu­dent in New Delhi in early summer 2016, African ambassadors advised their governments not to send any more students to India for the time being.89 In response to the incident, Indian facilities in Kinshasa were even attacked.90After a series of assaults on African citizens in India, African ambassadors even issued a joint declaration in Delhi in early April 2017 threatening to refer the matter to the United Nations Human Rights Council.91

Foreign Investments

In the period from 2002 to 2012, around US$64 billion in investments flowed from Africa to India. Surprisingly, a small African country is the world’s largest direct investor in India: Mauritius.92 99.5 per cent of all African investments in India were made from there.93 The next largest investors during this period were Morocco and South Africa.94

However, this peculiarity is not due to the economic power of the island state with its large Indian section of the population, but rather to its advantageous tax legislation. To save taxes, foreign companies – as well as Indian companies whose owners are Indians abroad (Non-Resident Indians) – use Mauritius as a starting point for their investments in India. This is why the island state has now replaced Singapore as the most attractive place for Indian foreign investment. Indian companies invest in Africa via Mauritius. In official statistics, these funds are then listed as direct investments from Mauritius. The small country therefore plays a similar role for India as Hong Kong does for China.95

Security Policy

In the security sector, India has three major issues in its relations with Africa: first, its extensive involvement in UN blue helmet missions in African conflicts; second, the fight against terrorism and maritime secu­rity issues; third, military cooperation, particularly in training. In recent years India has also made greater efforts to cooperate on arms policy with individual African states. Here, the Indian Ocean has a special role to play. On the one hand, India focuses on the fight against piracy, especially in the Horn of Africa; on the other hand, it pursues its rivalry with China, whose expansion in the Indian Ocean it monitors warily.

For many years, India has been one of the largest providers of troops for UN blue helmet missions. Indian armed forces were already involved in the UN’s first military operation in Congo in the early 1960s. To date, some 8,000 Indian soldiers and mili­tary observers have been stationed in various UN missions in Africa. In 2014/15, 80 per cent of Indian blue helmets were deployed on the continent. At the same time, Africa accounts for 70 per cent of the losses among India’s blue helmets. India has also sent police forces, including female personnel, to Africa on peacekeeping missions.96 The country has repeat­edly supported African Union peace initiatives.97 At the second India-Africa summit in 2011, the Indian government pledged US$2 million for the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM).98

The Indian Ocean is the main artery of the Indian economy. This is why the Indian Navy has been en­gaged in anti-piracy operations since 2008. India is a member of the International Contact Group on Somalia and has worked with states in East and south­ern Africa, including monitoring their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and anti-piracy patrols. From 2008 to 2013, Indian Navy patrols escorted 114 Indian ships and 1,037 ships flying other flags in the Gulf of Aden, and fended off 13 pirate attacks.99 In December 2018, the Indian Navy escorted a World Food Pro­gramme ship for the first time, in cooperation with Operation Atalanta of the European Union.100 This underscores India’s increased interest in security cooperation with the EU.

India is not only involved in blue helmet missions alongside African states, but also increasingly in the fight against pirates and terrorists.

Anti-piracy operations are also important for India for another reason. The country has the sixth largest number of seafarers internationally. There is there­fore a great danger that Indian citizens will become victims or hostages in pirate attacks. In 2011 the ar­rest of pirates by Indian security forces led to threats to hijack Indian ships and take seamen hos­tage to exchange them for detained pirates.101 It is proving difficult for India to prosecute pirates since piracy is not listed as an offence in the Indian Penal Code.102

India has also cooperated militarily with a number of African countries for many years. Since the 1960s, it has been training officers from predominantly English-speaking African states at Indian institutions. Between 1990/91 and 2000/01, some 800 officers from twelve African countries received training in India under the ITEC programme.103 The Indian army has also sent trainers to African armed forces, including those of Botswana, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Zambia, and is helping these countries to improve their infrastructure. For example, the Indian army has participated in the establishment of defence acad­emies in Ethiopia and Nigeria.104

In 2003, the Indian Navy assumed security responsi­bilities for the African Union Summit in the Mo­zam­bican capital Maputo. In June 2004, two Indian warships were stationed off Maputo to secure the meetings of the World Economic Forum on Africa, and of heads of state from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.105

India has traditionally maintained close relations with South Africa, including in the military sphere. The two countries signed an agreement on defence cooperation in 2000. India has since signed similar agreements with Tanzania (2003), the Seychelles (2003) and Nigeria (2007).106 The Indian government is also trying to expand its arms policy cooperation with African states. Some states have already purchased military equipment such as speedboats from India.107 However, this remains a limited market, as India has so far had major problems building up an inter­nationally competitive defence industry. Here, as in many other areas, the country is overshadowed by China, which has significantly expanded its arms exports to Africa. China had a ten per cent share of the arms sales in Africa from 1996 to 2003.108

The Modi government has once again given greater priority to security cooperation with Africa. In view of the threat posed by groups such as so-called “Islamic State” and Boko Haram, India has opted for closer anti-terror cooperation with friendly African states.109Piracy, terrorist attacks and kidnappings have also repeatedly affected Indian citizens or the Indian dias­pora in Africa. During Modi’s visit to four southern and East African countries in 2016, security dialogue was emphasised and possibilities for information ex­change between the secret services were discus­sed.110

The Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean island states, particularly Mauritius and the Seychelles, occupy a special position in India’s security policy. As part of its Belt and Road Initiative, the government in Beijing has invested considerably more in infrastructure and port projects in countries bordering the Indian Ocean in recent years. Indian security experts fear that the ports will also be used militarily in the future and that India will be mili­tarily encircled by them, as if by a string of pearls.

In response, India has expanded its own security cooperation with these island states.111On behalf of the government in Mauritius, India patrols and moni­tors the island state’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and trains police and army members in fighting pirates. India has also transferred or sold ships to the island state, enabling Mauritius to improve its defence capa­bilities in 2015/16. Finally, India is investing in the expansion of the port infrastructure on the island.112

India is trying to counter China’s expansion in the Indian Ocean.

India showed much greater military ambitions in the Seychelles. It has donated ships to the coastguard of the island state in 2006, 2014 and 2016, and a Dor­nier-228 aircraft for airspace surveillance in 2013.113 During his first visit in spring 2015, Prime Minister Modi emphasised security cooperation and presented the first radar system for coastal surveillance, in­stalled by India.114

India also planned to establish a military base in the Seychelles in response to increased Chinese activity in the Indian Ocean. In January 2018, the two states signed an agreement allowing India to build an airport and a landing stage for military use on Assumption Island. India would have significantly increased its military engagement in the Indian Ocean with such a base. However, the plan failed in summer 2018 after protests by the Seychelles Par­lia­ment against secret clauses in the treaty.115


There is no doubt that India has considerably ex­panded its political, economic and military relations with Africa in recent years. Nevertheless, an assess­ment of its Africa policy in the overall context of its foreign policy is difficult.

Despite the increase in trading goods, the continent is unlikely to play a major role in Indian foreign policy in the foreseeable future, compared to South East Asia or the Middle East, for example. The big exception is the energy sector, since the increased energy imports especially from West African coun­tries are essential to India’s efforts to diversify its imports. The African continent is probably even more important for India in the global context. India can repeatedly reinforce its claim to global leadership precisely in its relations with Africa. And due to their weight in the UN, African states are particularly im­portant to the reform of international organisations that India wants.116

Against this backdrop, the planned expansion of India’s diplomatic presence may seem contradictory, but it is in fact perfectly logical. At first glance, such a step is difficult to understand given the already scarce resources allocated to India’s foreign policy and the rather subordinate economic importance of the Afri­can continent. However, in view of India’s global ambitions and its future Africa policy, this commit­ment may make sense. India has so far been a rather weak actor in the context of international donors in Africa, compared to the industrialised countries or new donors such as China. Strengthening its local presence, which African states are also calling on India to do, is an indispensable prerequisite for re­affirming its claim to leadership in the countries of the Global South, and for securing the economic in­terests of Indian companies. Moreover, the expan­sion also takes account of Africa’s growing “regionalisation”. The varying economic and political developments in different parts of Africa will in future re­quire a more specific Southern, West, East and Cen­tral Africa policy, rather than a continent-wide strat­egy.

Measured against its own prerequisites, India’s Africa policy has a number of shortcomings that are currently being debated by experts. For example, dis­senting voices point out that India’s extensive in­volve­ment in blue helmet missions in Africa has so far not paid off at the international level.117 There are also criticisms that India, which exclusively provides troops, has hardly any influence on the peacekeepers’ mandate.118 Furthermore, China is now sending ever more personnel on such missions than before, and Western states have also intensified their security cooperation with Africa. As a result, this aspect is dimin­ishing in importance for India,119 and the ques­tion is raised as to in what other areas it can offer African states strategic added value.120

From an African perspective, India remains an important partner, even if only to counter-balance excessive dependence on China.121 For African states, however, Chinese and Indian engagement are not a zero-sum game, but rather complementary initiatives. China has more numerous opportunities in Africa, as many examples demonstrate. Between 2000 and 2014, it invested around US$350 billion in developing countries, making it one of the largest investors in Africa.122 India cannot compete with these orders of magnitude. Although it is, inter alia, involved in a number of regional development banks in Africa, its shares are far lower than China’s. India holds 0.27 per cent of the shares in the African Development Bank, China 1.2 per cent. For the West African Development Bank the figures are 0.07 per cent and 1.09 per cent respectively, and for Afreximbank 0.24 per cent and 5.48 per cent respectively.123

Foreign policy makers in New Delhi are well aware of the discrepancies. They realise that they cannot en­gage in a race for Africa with China. At a parliamentary hearing on the Doklam crisis with China in 2017, former Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar explained that it would be “suicidal for the Government of India to match port for port and air­port for airport” with China.124 His successor, Vijay Gokhale, acknowledged that China’s promise of low-cost financing and rapid implementation of the projects was well received by many countries.125

These insights, and China’s intentions to support African states in their industrialisation efforts,126 prob­ably explain why the Modi government is more likely to rely on soft power in its future relations with Africa. India is making laborious progress in its own industrialisation. Modi set out ten principles of India’s future Africa policy in his speech to the Ugan­dan parliament on 25 July 2018. These mainly con­cern historical relations, trade and cultural links.127

Opportunities and Prospects for Indo-German Cooperation in Third Countries

Germany and India share a number of strategic inter­ests in Africa and the Indian Ocean.128These include the economic development of Africa and the strength­ening of state structures, as well as securing sea routes and combating piracy. Germany and India also want to prevent African states from becoming too politi­cally and economically dependent on China, which could be the outcome of their growing indebt­edness.

To deepen cooperation, a first step would be tri­angular (development) cooperation.129 This form of cooperation has gained in importance in recent years since emerging countries, a category that includes India, themselves provide development aid, albeit according to different criteria.

Even though India likes to present its South-South cooperation as a counter-model to Western development cooperation, for some years now it has been open to triangular cooperation with Western indus­trialised countries. In 2016 India and the USA agreed on development cooperation in Asia and Africa. To date, the two countries have supported joint projects in several African countries, for example in the health sector and rural development, through educa­tion and training programmes and technology trans­fer.130 Together with Great Britain, India is also active in African third countries, for example in energy, health, and food security.131 The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor being planned with Japan is a further exam­ple of triangular cooperation.

A number of topics and sectors are also suitable for triangular cooperation between India and Germany. German DC supported the development of a health insurance scheme for poor population groups, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) programme, and accompanied its introduction. Other states, in­clud­ing those in Africa, have signalled their interest in introducing or adopting such a programme. Some institutions in India can also draw on long experience in development cooperation with Africa. This applies, for example, to capacity building through education and training measures, such as in agriculture, irriga­tion management, and technology transfer. Germany, for its part, has for many years been promoting pro­grammes in India and Africa to expand alternative energies and improve energy efficiency. Opportunities for cooperation could open up within the frame­work of the International Solar Alliance initiated by India, even though Germany is not yet a member of the organisation. Both countries have also invested in infrastructure development in Africa and supported regional organisations. This results in a broad spec­trum of initiatives for triangular cooperation with India in Africa.

Although triangular cooperation has a high symbolic value for cooperation with a partner country, it also requires greater administrative effort. As more actors are involved, the time and coordination effort involved increases significantly for everyone. While German DC in the recipient states engages in tech­nical and financial cooperation with its own imple­mentation organisations, such as the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Indian South-South cooperation takes place primarily within India, for example in capacity building. Technical assistance in the form of German DC projects is, in India’s view, business development for Indian companies. More­over, although India has repeatedly sent individual experts and advisors to other countries, it does not have an implementation organisation for its devel­op­ment policy, such as the GIZ. The implementation of projects remains the responsibility of the government agencies entrusted with this task, such as embassies, or private companies.

Despite these differences, closer development co­operation should be pursued with India. In the con­text of bilateral relations with India, this strategic part­nership could be further expanded and taken to a new level.

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