India is now stepping-up efforts for a concrete military outreach to Africa after a diplomatic one to counter the deep strategic inroads made by China in the world’s second largest continent, even as the two Asian rivals continue with their shadow-boxing for influence in the Indian Ocean Region.
India will conduct an “India-Africa Field Training Exercise (IAFTX)” in Pune from March 18 to 27 next year, which will see the participation of over a dozen countries ranging from Tanzania and Kenya to Ghana and South Africa, said defence ministry sources on Wednesday.
“Though Indian armed forces do train some military personnel from a few African nations, the IAFTX will be the first-ever such exercise with several armies from Africa. The initial planning conference for IAFTX was held a few days ago, with the final one slated for end-January,” said a source.
Interestingly, the head of the Army, Bipin Rawat, is also scheduled to visit Tanzania and Kenya from December 17 to 20 to reinforce defense cooperation. As part of its general policy, India has also held defense cooperation talks with countries such as Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, sources say.
The commitment of the defense with South Africa is, of course, at a much higher level. The warships and aircraft of India, South Africa and Brazil, for example, celebrated the sixth edition of the IBSAMAR naval exercise in Simons Town in October.
"But India has not carried out any bilateral or multilateral exercise with other African nations such as IAFTX despite long-standing ties with them," the source said. The exercise will involve "humanitarian action against mines" (elimination of mines and other protocols to manage landmines and explosives) and peacekeeping operations, in which India has decades of experience, among other areas.
The IAFTX effort, by the way, comes at a time when India is finishing a busy year of military diplomacy, which carried out exercises with all the P-5 countries (USA, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom). Kingdom), as well as other powers such as Australia, Japan, South Africa and Brazil, as well as Asian countries such as Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, as previously reported by TOI.
But India, as in the IOR, simply does not have the deep pockets like China for a massive economic and military commitment to Africa. Backed by its multi-billion-dollar Belt and Highway Initiative, which even worries the United States and Europe, China has rapidly expanded its presence in Africa as the "New Great Game" unfolds on the continent known for its minerals and other basic products
China in July, incidentally, had ruled out any new Sino-Indian rivalry in Africa, noting that the two Asian giants were on the same page in their efforts to help the countries there. This happened shortly after both President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Rwanda, one after the other, as they headed to the BRICS summit in South Africa.