African Development Bank’s meet: India-Africa relationship enters new phase | editorials | Hindustan Times
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African Development Bank’s meet: India-Africa relationship enters new phase

The African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat puts some important financial and policy flesh to the new relationship developing between India and the continent, which was politically signaled by the largest-ever India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015.

editorials Updated: May 23, 2017 16:42 IST
African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.
African Development Bank (ADB) president Akinwumi Adesina addresses a press conference in Ahmedabad, May 20, 2017.(AFP)

India’s strategic safari took a step further this week with the African Development Bank (AfDB) holding its annual meeting for the first time in this country. The meeting puts some important financial and policy flesh to the new relationship developing between India and the continent, which was politically signalled by the largest-ever India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015. The conference will showcase the continuing evolution of India’s use of its development aid.

New Delhi had become a vigorous provider of lines of credit as part of its aid programme. These provided a useful bridge for Indian firms to find local business partners and establish a commercial presence in Africa. An additional stamp of legitimacy has now been provided to this programme by the AfDB, acting as an intermediary for such concessional finance. In addition, the summit will see India and Japan workout the modalities of an economic and transport corridor, probably through eastern and southern Africa, which will be a path breaker in terms of India partnering with another country to carry out an aid project in another set of countries.

There are some standard arguments as to why India’s relationship with Africa is entering a new phase. Indian trade with the continent is doubling every five years and India is now a larger trading partner for Africa than Japan or the United States. Over 15% of India’s overseas investment now goes to Africa. Countries like Nigeria are key providers of oil and if India’s plans to commit several billion dollars to the development of Mozambique’s gasfields see fruition that Indian Ocean littoral state will emerge as India’s energy partner in the 21st century.

There is today a much more of a strategic play in what India does with Africa. The last forum summit was notable for the many military agreements India signed with Africa. This is partly because of New Delhi’s concerns about non-State threats from the continent ranging from al-Qaeda to Somali pirates.

It also reflects Indian concerns that it has done little to cement political and military ties in its own maritime backyard at a time when US influence is waning and the Chinese presence is rising. Beijing’s enormous Belt Road initiative, parts of which would touch Africa and the Indian Ocean, only underline why New Delhi needs to become a much larger player in Africa. Among the areas outside of Asia, eastern and southern Africa will probably emerge as the most important geographical areas of interest to India in the new century.