“India shares Africa’s dreams and India Africa cooperation is a genuine two way street partnership.”
-Former Vice President Shri Hamid Ansari
The Asian subcontinent and Africa are the epitome of what the world sees as the growth centres of the world in the next few decades. Commonly suffering with social ails like poverty, crime, illiteracy and hunger, the two land masses are dreaming and are dreaming with realistic faith. India and Africa have had trade relations with each other since ancient times. This continued strongly all through the medieval periods and the cooperations are going deep and well even presently on this day.
The ancient times and the medieval time periods saw India and Africa not as two developing zones, but as the most wealthy developed lands of the time. The objects traded were the ones normally afforded by just these two kingdoms. Ivory and jewellery trade remained up until the modern times.
The colonialism adversely saw the downfall of both Africa and India in similar fashions. Centuries and ages of growth and development was forcibly zeroed down and the nations were robbed of all their riches. People saw racist abuse, forced slavery and snatched fundamental rights all around. Frequent famines, most normally artificially caused by the colonisers and food shortages so as resulted created huge and wide civil unrests.
The common denominator was the divide-and-rule politics by the Europeans and then aroused the common dream and recognition for each other’s sufferings and sympathies. The Indian and African leaders aligned and a common bond of respect developed. None of the states was independent, none was sovereign, yet there rose a diplomatic understanding between India and Africa like never seen before.
That understanding continues to grow to this day. India supported Africa in its Apartheid all through the 20th Century, even after gaining its own independence in 1947. Africa too recognises India’s diplomatic efforts and returns the respectful gesture by supporting India on multiple fronts in International organisations like GATT, WTO and the UN.
India and Africa have initiated a common summit and Shri Narendra Modi’s government today is acknowledging multiple reasons why Africa is so centric to the ambitions of India in the coming future. We face some external issues from countries like China and USA though, and we will discuss all about that.
ISSUES MOTIVATED FOR CHOOSING THE STUDY
After evaluating the numerous topics provided to us by the professor, I have particularly chosen this topic due to the following reasons:
Ancient History: Ancient India as well as Ancient Egypt are two of the very primary organised civilisations that the world had seen. Although the two civilisations were very different in terms of their management and conceptuality, there still were great similarities. Both India and Egypt were the clusters of human wealth and knowledge at that time. Both of these kingdoms drew inspirations from their religious and spiritual preachings. The culture was relatable and that paved way for economic and trade cooperation through the Red Sea route in the coming centuries. The Egyptian model followed in the other African emerging nations as well as a lot of cultural exchange took place. It was a great example of human understanding at that time.
Medieval Achievements: African continent as well as the Indian sub-continent continued to flourish through the medieval ages. China also played a huge role in the world trade but that only added as a complement and aid to the India-Africa understanding. With great advancements in the water and sea transportations, the world maps were fast shrinking and Africa was not so far anymore. This saw India and Africa trade in numerous commodities like cotton, glass-beads and stretched to precious metals like gold as well as rare pearls and soft ivory. The trade was not just confined to goods. With the cultural appreciation and acceptance, it was common to find pieces of Indian architecture in Africa. A lot was understood, acknowledged and make to happen in these two very developed areas of those times.
Colonial Experience: Being very rich and Godly gifted with vast stretches of natural resources, Africa and India were both heavens for the powerful European colonisers during the last few centuries. All but a few countries remained independent in the huge African continent and likewise, almost all of Greater India (then Hindustan) was captured by the Europeans.
The experiences during the colonial rule were similar as far as both India and Africa are concerned. Racism, oppression, slavery, illiteracy, poverty, hunger were the common indices of these experiences. The richest two area of the medieval world were left in the 20th Century as two of the poorest, consequences of which are faced up until this day.
ORIGIN AND NATURE
As discussed above, the ancient history tells us how much the African and Indian trade relations integrated the regions in tune with growth and prosperity. Various empires through different phases in the African continent continued to develop different sorts of trade import and exports with Indian counterparts. Kingdom of Aksum for example traded around the inception of real world trade between Africa and other kingdoms. This was helped by monsoon winds and helped a trade for commodities like cotton and beads in exchange for expensive gold and other jewels. Clearly, this was a trade between the riches.
Then came the Ptolemaic Rule. By this time, ports were developed and sea transportation was in place. Red Sea routes were initiated towards India where a structure for state of the art ports was already there. Then eventually the trading diversified with the involvement of other nations as the scope for exchange widened to more commonly used goods like cloth, yarn, indigo and wool. Spices were in hot demand and Indian oils were highly valuable.
With the inception of Roman Egypt, more spiritual exchanges took place as the records of Roman Egypt especially under the rule of Alexandria mention Indian religions as well as the concepts of Buddhism.
The relations during the medieval times kept growing strong with the influx of Arabia into play as an intermediary of trade and culture. Under the British rule, all of India and large portions of Africa were controlled by the Britishers. Due to this, there was a great infrastructure for ivory trade between the port of Bombay and the Eastern African nations.
Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in Africa and his practice of law in the region is the fundamental pillar of modern day strong trade relations and diplomatic understanding between India and Africa up until this day.
EXISTING SCHOLARLY WORK
For having a balanced view on this issue, multiple literary works were carefully examined. This helped in developing a holistic understanding about the subject in hand. These papers and articles can be discussed as follows:
The Asia Africa Growth Corridor (2017), Ruchita Beri: This paper talks about the very recent growing importance of the Asia and Africa trade corridor. The Asian countries primarily include India, China and Japan. Individually, India hosts the India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) to make India and Africa’s relations with each other stronger in the future. During the most recent IAFS 2015, India promised to 10 Billion USD to African partners as aid and credit.
Why Africa? (2016), Debnath Shaw: This paper is a detailed approach to understand why Africa is the perfect avenue to invest in and trade with as fas as the Indian public as well as private sectors are concerned. It describes Africa as a ‘happening continent’ today. It also lays down useful statistical studies like that from FICCI on ‘Rising Africa’. These statistics prove that the result and visibility of tangible growth is most prevalent in Africa all over the world. India is Africa’s fourth largest trading partner. Only to be surpassed by China, UK and France.
Reengineering India-Africa Maritime Relations (2015), Abhijeet Singh: This article speaks abut the rising vitality as well as scope for strengthening diplomatic as well as maritime relations with East African coastal countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and also Madagascar. This primarily boils down upon the security and piracy issue at and around the Horn of Africa region. This is majorly because of the presence of Somalian Pirates. Indian Navy is more involved in African waters than ever before.
The Rise of China and India in Africa: Challenges (2012), Babjee Pothuraju: This is a paper with a very justifiable criticism of growing interference by China and India in the African continent. This paper argues that the interests of India and China in the region are not only selfish but also harmful for the continent, both economically and demographically in the long run. It says that with the fall in interference from the west, its just shifting to the east. Sooner of later, China and India are only going to serve their own interests and hamper the continent’s progress as their own quest for developing themselves goes on. They are going to exploit the African continent of its vital raw materials and natural resources like oil and metals.
India Prime Minister’s Visit to Africa, New Avenues of Cooperation (2016), Ruchita Beri: This is an article which highlights Shri Narendra Modi’s visit to African nations in 2016. The issues highlighted the article were the ones the Prime Minister focussed on during his speeches and diplomatic meetings there in Africa.. These real to food security, renewable energy and security cooperation.
Presently, the relations between India and Africa are highly institutionalised. The formal institution of India Africa relations was established in 2008 with the conception of India Africa Forum Summit – I in New Delhi. This is around eight years after the time when Chinese and African relations were also institutionalised. Under the present policies, the Indian government aims to create bilateral relationships with African countries, involve throughout international forums like BRICS and IBSA as well as an initiation of dialogues with the niche organisation in the African continent.
Africa is helping India with a lot of natural resources as well as energy avenues. It is the primary region for import of gold and diamond. Interestingly so, India is the highest consumer of these precious metals along with Africa being the largest producer. Africa can also help India with food security and India can do just the same for Africa considering how huge portions of land masses are used for agriculture in both the land masses and also considering how much hunger and poverty is still existing in both. Its a necessity rather than a potential demand.
However there are some persistent problems for either sides. Engaging too much with Africa means engaging more with issues like organised crimes, terrorism, piracy etc. and engaging too much with growth hungry countries like India and China might mean another avenue for self exploitation for African nature rich nations.
Then there is the issue of persistent US involvement in the continent. After the shale revolution in USA, the dependency for oil from Africa reduced. However US still competes for almost all the other products India is interested in. And US highlights its aids and contributions to the fund-hungry African nations much more and much better than India does. For the Ebola crisis, India was the highest contributor in most African nations. However it did not get highlighted and India made little or no efforts to highlight this. This directly hampers our potential reputation and influence in the region.
The above mentioned model of continental partnership we just discussed is a prime example of two regions recognising the need of each other. India and Africa is a symbiotic relationship the the world needs to uplift two underdeveloped area of the world. Together, there is a fight to be fought. A fight against the social and economic evils. Common issues like poverty, hunger, illiteracy, terrorism and piracy in the sea waters must be confronted right away with specific and general policies and cooperation.
Up until late 20th Century, even though India provided subordinate and unconditional support to the African nations against imperial rule, it still could not do much because of financial weaknesses. This was further elevated due to the internal oriented policies shaped up during the Indian Five Year Plans.
But 1990s onwards, after liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation, India became more involved in Africa. This was started mainly by private players initially. Huge levels of private investments were made in the African continent and large market potentials were tapped. Government of India joined only later after the involvement of China began in Africa in 2000.
The 21st Century saw a great deal of soothing cooperation between the two continents and it promises to continue strongly further and forever. Clearly, India needs Africa and Africa needs India.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE FUTURE
I suggest that the newly formed corridor of institutionalised understanding and cooperation between India and its African counterparts is one to be cherished and harnessed further. The statement of the 21st Century during the upcoming few decades can be made by the success of these developing giants. India has a lot to benefit from its partnership and likewise, Africa can grow multiple folds by the coalition with Indian and Chinese private and public investments and interests. I recommend the present and also the future Indian governments to recognise this need and perspective and continue this journey of African Indian joint progression. For me, the greatest achievements can only be reached if the partners have common problems and goals. And are not Africa and India just that?