India–Africa Military-cum-Defence Diplomacy: A Viable Option

Wing Commander Swaim Prakash Singh, MSc, MPhil, psc+ is working as a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi. He is currently pursuing Ph.D. (thesis submitted) in Defence and Strategic Studies.
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  • July-September 2023

    The relationship between India and Africa is based on historical ties forged during colonialism and apartheid. However, due to a wave of liberalisation and privatisation in the 1990s, India’s involvement in Africa shifted significantly. Despite active engagement for more than 70 years, India’s long-term strategy for expanding its relations with Africa lacked clarity and wherewithal. As a result, India has also been unable to capitalise on its enormous historical goodwill in the region. However, it may change as ideological and political issues are taking a backseat. Also, rising economic and security ties have recently given the partnership a fresh start. However, given the unprecedented opportunity to engage with African countries to address their security concerns and thus strengthen relations, it is observed that initiatives to this end are insufficient. What else can be done to make the engagements more meaningful and worthwhile? Can the defence diplomacy factor be one of the strategies for strengthening bilateral security cooperation? Can the bilateral engagement move to other military arenas beyond UN Peacekeeping Operations? Can the Indian military contribute more to the African countries’ capacity-building? Can India think of establishing a military base beyond the maritime domain? Can India capitalise on Africa in its effort of ‘Atmanirbharta’ to ‘Bharatnirbharta’?

    This article attempts to answer these questions by focusing on the need for India and Africa to strengthen their relationships at all levels, particularly in defence and military diplomacy.

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