clash in the Himalayan Galwan Valley resulted in the death of 20 soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops.have never been friendly neighbors. The laws of geopolitics set the two giants against one another. In recent years, ’s confrontation with the US and Indian Prime Minister ’s ambitions for a powerful and global have inflamed nationalism on both sides of the Himalayan border. Bilateral tensions peaked in June, when a border
Han and Hindu Nationalism Come Face to Face
Now, the competition between interest in .is moving to , and to East in particular. Since 2000, the continent has witnessed ’s deep and ubiquitous penetration through trade, investments, infrastructures, energy, budget support and security cooperation. In 2008, New Delhi showed a newfound
Despite’s head start, is trying to catch up to counter Beijing’s predominance over the continent. East is the region where the two powerhouses share vital interests and where their competition will likely play out more seriously.
India’s Africa Policy
people of Indian descent live between the Horn and South . After independence from British rule in 1947, was politically active in as a champion of decolonization and . The period that followed saw – relations phase out until New brought the continent back into the picture from the mid-2000s.– relations are rooted in history. The Indian Ocean constituted a channel of trade and population exchange for centuries. Consequently, East has always enjoyed close ties with , and around 3 million
In economic terms, trade augmented eightfold between 2001 and 2017, making partner with a total exchange worth $62.6 billion. While Chinese trade with the continent largely outnumbers it, has kept up the pace and investments grew alongside trade, jumping to $54 billion in 2016.’s third-largest trading
As a fast-growing manufacturing power, resources — with oil and gas accounting for approximately two-thirds of the total — followed by gold and other ores.places strategic relevance to raw materials for the stability of its supply chain and energy sector. Indeed, New ’s exchange with , like Beijing’s, is driven by natural
Political ties have also strengthened over the years. In 2008, the first launched in New and took place again in 2011 and 2015, with 41 African heads of state attending; the next conference was scheduled in September 2020. These summits allowed African leaders, on the one hand, to set out their cooperation priorities and , on the other, to respond accordingly. As a result, – cooperation pivoted around capacity building, technology transfer and infrastructural investments. Lastly, has sought support on UN reform, which would be unrealistic without the votes of African countries in the General Assembly.– Forum Summit was
Security issues have been on the agenda as well. New across the Gulf of Aden, sometimes in cooperation with the European Union’s Mission Atalanta.is particularly active in the realm of anti-piracy. After the kidnapping of several Indian citizens by Somali pirates, the Indian navy stepped up its efforts after 2008 and escorted over 1,000 vessels
Modi and the Challenge to China
visit to and . On that occasion, the prime minister leveraged ’s role in to advance his credentials as leader of the developing world. Besides rhetoric, moved from words to action by signing a defense agreement with President Paul Kagame of and by extending two credit lines worth nearly $200 million to the government. He also announced the opening of 18 new diplomatic missions in by 2021, bringing the total to 47.has given further impetus to – relations. In July 2018, he outlined the 10 guiding principles of ’s engagement with during a
The prime minister has placed a keen eye on Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), especially in the port of and the Suez Canal., which is set to become the epicenter of the – confrontation. The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are essential maritime routes for ’s export-oriented economy. is heavily investing along these two waterways through the “
so-called “String of Pearls,” geographically surrounds and is perceived as a strategic nightmare in New Delhi. Therefore, the Chinese expansion in the western Indian Ocean urges to intervene.is indeed becoming yet another element of the Chinese maritime network in the Indian Ocean, along with Pakistan, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. This network, the
To counter the BRI in the Indian Ocean, New project will attract investments on development, quality infrastructure, institutional connectivity, capacity building and people-to-people cooperation to the region. Due to its anti-Chinese nature, the AAGC primarily targets contested countries like and .launched a similar initiative for : the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC). Conceived in 2016 and still at an early stage, this Indo-Japanese
In 2017, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind clustered both countries for his first official visit. At the time, was already the largest beneficiary of ’s scholarship scheme and lines of credit for Africa with $1.1 billion, besides being the scene of the 2011 -Africa Forum Summit. was a relatively new target for New . In the year of the visit, opened its first overseas military base in . Consequently, Kovind not only signed some cooperation agreements, but he also reportedly expressed ’s interest in a military base on Djiboutian soil, a project still under discussion.
The geopolitical confrontation between soft power looks promising. The concepts of building ’s capacities and unleashing its potential, along with the employment of African workers instead of foreign labor like , have resonated across the continent.and looms on the horizon. — particularly the east — is set to become an arena of such a global, momentous challenge. has economic, energetic and security reasons to deepen its relations with the continent. Furthermore, ’s ubiquitous presence in and the Ocean is a direct menace to Modi’s global ambitions. Although is still out of reach, New ’s engagement has been steadily expanding in all fields, and its approach based on
On the one hand, Eastis under ’s radar more than any other region of the continent for its strategic position. On the other, East African governments have a long track record of balancing off the influence of external actors. East is also the region where can rely on a robust diaspora community. Hence, India presents itself as a useful ally to balance China’s growing influence in the region.
Finally, yet importantly, the US and the European powers might prefer New Delhi’s penetration into the continent at the detriment of China’s, which is perceived as a growing geopolitical threat to the West. East Africa, in sum, might soon become the new battleground of the economic and security confrontation between the two Asian giants.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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