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India–Namibia Relations Get a Boost

Ms Bulbul Prakash is Research Intern at Africa, Latin America, Caribbean and UN Centre, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • August 22, 2022

    The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Namibia, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, visited India to attend the 17th CII EXIM Bank Conclave on India–Africa Growth Partnership, which was held on 19–20 July 2022. While the two-day conclave was attended by 40 ministers from 17 African countries, Namibia was one of the five countries which had a dedicated Country Session during the Conclave, apart from the Republic of The Gambia, Zambia, Mauritius and Gabon. Issues related to energy, infrastructure, agriculture and health were discussed during the session.1

    Ms Ndaitwah met Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav. India and Namibia signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) related to wildlife conservation, sustainable biodiversity utilisation and employment of diplomatic spouses or dependants. As part of the wildlife pact, India is expected to get eight African cheetahs for captive breeding in Madhya Pradesh's Kuno National Park in August 2022, making it the world's first agreement for the transcontinental transfer of such a large number of carnivorous animals. The MoU between the National Forensic Science University (NFSU) and the Namibian Police Forensic Science Institute (NPFSI) will see India offering Namibia customised training in the fields of forensic science, cybersecurity, digital forensics, wildlife crime investigation, and homeland security.2

    Historical Aspects

    India was one of the first countries to support the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) party, founded in 1960, which led the country to independence from South Africa in 1990.3 The first SWAPO embassy abroad was established in India in 1986. It started a chain of diplomatic recognition by other countries and the inevitable process leading to Namibia's independence.4

    At the Non-Aligned Movement conference in 1986, in Zimbabwe, the 'AFRICA Fund' was established to offer financial help to southern African liberation organisations. The AFRICA Fund Committee held its first summit in January 1987 in New Delhi. Namibia’s anti-colonial struggle gained from such efforts. When the country secured independence in 1990, Prime Minister VP Singh and Rajiv Gandhi, the then leader of the opposition, attended the celebrations at Windhoek.5

    Subsequent high-level visits included those by President Shankar Dayal Sharma in 1995 and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1998. Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba visited India in 2009 which resulted in the signing of a number of agreements including those on defence cooperation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, Pan-African e-Network and mineral resources.6 President Hage G. Geingob participated in the 3rd India–Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in 2015.

    This was followed by the highly successful visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to Namibia in 2016. India signed two MoUs during the visit, on capacity-building for civil servants and establishing the India–Namibia Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (INCEIT), at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). INCEIT is now offering IT programmes on subjects such as Big Data Technologies, among others, to Namibian students.

    Economic and Commercial Relations

    In the last two decades, strengthening economic cooperation has been the focus of India–Africa relations.7 Significant potential for economic cooperation with Namibia exists in diverse areas such as skill development, affordable housing, and agriculture and minerals, particularly gold and diamonds.

    India–Namibia bilateral trade was worth US$ 251.88 million in 2021–22.8 The Namibia Trade Commission Office was established in Chennai in 2021 by the India Africa Trade Council (IATC) in partnership with the India Namibia Trade Forum (INTF). According to  the present Indian High Commissioner to Namibia, India is currently the second largest exporter to Namibia, after South Africa.9

    The pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors have emerged as key arenas of cooperation. India was among the first countries to provide Covid-19 vaccinations, PPE kits, and other supplies to Namibia to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic.10 India is a world leader when it comes to providing affordable healthcare services and pharmaceutical products. India’s low-cost pharmaceutical industry gives opportunities for Namibia to produce medicines domestically. Namibia also offers a great avenue for Indian companies in agricultural, food processing and animal husbandry industries. The southern African country has benefitted from the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, which provides training via innovative technical cooperation. Since its inception, the initiative has provided scholarships to over 1,200 Namibians.11

    Apart from the federal level, state governments are also pursuing cooperation. The Madhya Pradesh government, for instance, began the process of setting up a diamond park in Panna in 2021 and to send students to Namibia to learn the intrinsic details of the diamond sector. Namibia, the world's sixth largest producer of rough diamonds, issued trading licences to Indian firms as far back as 2008. Finestar Jewellery & Diamonds, an Indian firm, opened its factory in Namibia in July 2022.

    India’s diamond imports from Namibia over the last five years, accounted for more than half of the country’s total imports of the commodity, as indicated in the table below.







    Import of non-industrial diamonds (unworked) from Namibia (in US$ Million)











    Total Import to country

    (in US$ Million)






    Source: Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India

    Defence Cooperation

    Defence collaboration between India and Namibia dates back to the mid-1990s, when an Indian Air Force Technical Team (IAFTT) was stationed in Namibia to train the Namibian Air Force helicopter pilots and hone their technical skills.12 In 2011, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) delivered one Cheetah and two Chetak helicopters to the Namibian Air Force.13 The HAL has provided training to Namibian pilots and ground crew in addition to the supply of necessary equipment and spare parts.

    India has also sent military observers to Namibia (1989–91) as part of the UN Transition Assistance Group with the mandate to ensure free and fair elections. Namibia, along with 16 other African countries, participated in the first Africa–India Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX) held from 18 March to 27 March 2019 at the Aundh Military station in Pune. The exercise aims to train participating contingents in Humanitarian Mine Assistance (HMA) and Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) under the United Nations Charter through practical and comprehensive discussions and tactical exercises.

    Nuclear Cooperation

    In 2021, Namibia emerged as the world's second largest producer of uranium from mines.14 India signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Namibia in 2009, after it got exemption from Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in September 2008. However, given that Namibia is a signatory to the Treaty of Pelindaba on the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, uranium exports to India—a non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)—have not materialised as yet. During former President Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Namibia in 2016, India was assured that legal implications of supplying uranium for peaceful civilian nuclear use were being studied.15 Given that India has an ambitious nuclear energy programme, made up of both indigenously developed reactors and those expected to be set up by foreign companies, a forward movement on this issue will open up economic opportunities to Namibia.


    Namibia is one of the most peaceful nations in Africa, without any recent inter-group conflict or war. With the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement in place since 2018, Namibia will have access to a wider market. India is also interested in strengthening economic and trading links with African countries through the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), of which Namibia is a member. While Africa benefits from India's growing interest in the region, Namibia has the potential to be a key partner.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.