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To counter China’s influence, India seeks to boost defence cooperation with African countries

Representatives of 50 African countries, including 20 defence ministers & service chiefs, participated in India-Africa Defence Dialogue chaired by Rajnath Singh on sidelines of DefExpo.

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Gandhinagar: Underlining that India does not believe in making another country a “client” or “satellite state”, New Delhi is aspiring for deeper defence cooperation with African countries in the form of training and sale of equipment like attack choppers, drones, missiles, patrol vessels and small arms, among others.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks during the India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD), held on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 here in Gujarat, are being seen as a counter to China’s growing influence in Africa.

Chinese economic and defence cooperation has come under increased scrutiny over the last few years with many of Beijing’s debtors seen falling into a ‘debt trap’. 

As for India, fifty African countries participated in the India-Africa Defence Dialogue initiated during the last DefExpo held in Lucknow in 2020. Among the attendees were defence ministers of 20 African countries, along with seven chiefs of defence staff/service chiefs and eight permanent secretaries.

During his address Tuesday, the Defence Minister stressed on the need to explore new areas of convergence for defence engagements between India and Africa, including capacity-building, training, cybersecurity, maritime security and counter-terrorism. He added that India and African countries are important stakeholders in ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment, especially in the Indian Ocean region.

India does not believe in a hierarchical world order where few countries are considered superior to others, he said, adding that India’s international relations are guided by the very essence of human equality and dignity, which is a part of its ancient ethos. 

“We do not believe in making or becoming a client or satellite state, and so, when we partner with any country, it is on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect. Forging relations comes naturally to India, as we work towards mutual economic development,” he said.

Underlining that peace, security and development are interrelated, Singh said security is essential for enabling development in the region. 

He invited African countries to explore Indian defence equipment and technologies, which Singh said, can “fulfil all your defence requirements”.

“African priorities are our priorities. We appreciate the efforts made by African countries towards building a common African peace and security architecture,” he said.

Sources explained that there are immense possibilities in Africa when it comes to closer defence cooperation with India.

“Besides capacity-building in terms of training, Africa is also looking at various equipment that India can provide. Africa knows that India, unlike other countries, is a dependable friend and believes in partnerships,” a source told ThePrint.

Sources in the defence establishment also said equipment of interest to Africa includes light combat helicopters, patrol vessels, small arms, shoulder-fired rockets, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, and surveillance drones, among others.

Wooing countries in the African continent, Defence Minister Singh in his address underlined that while Covid-19 had a disruptive effect on African and Indian economies and peoples, New Delhi was at the forefront of supporting Africa in dealing with challenges posed by the pandemic. 

“The Indian Navy exhibited excellent capability and service through successful completion of the Mission SAGAR initiatives, which helped provide a timely supply of COVID-related emergency medical supplies. 

“It also deployed medical expert teams for training and assistance. Additionally, India has been the first responder in providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to several African countries,” he said.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: ‘Will surpass last year’ — India looks at highest defence exports this fiscal, as DefExpo starts


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