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The Rationale behind India's Shift to Africa

India has become a strategic partner to Africa, as it increases its investments and coordination efforts on the continent.

Africa - Socio Economic - Format: PDF - Size: 884.57 KB - Date: Oct, 2019 - Pages: 13 - Copyright: NATO Strategic Direction South HUB - Tags: Economy, Culture
With a current population of 1.3 Billion expected to surpass that of China by 2024 , India is emerging as a populated country with growing needs in terms of food, energy and natural resources. Besides demographic pressure, India is facing several internal and external challenges. The country is struggling to tackle poverty which affects 1/5 of its population fueling social unrest.
From a broader picture, India is surrounded by border disputes with neighbouring countries; mainly Kashmir with Pakistan and Aksai Chin with China. Those territorial claims are further exacerbated by the growing influence of China and its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which is enclosing India. In the framework of the BRI, China is developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that links south-west China to the Gwadar Port (located in Pakistan) through the disputed territory of Kashmir. With regards to the maritime layout of the BRI, the Chinese String of Pearls is contributing to India's isolation.


Since 2000, Africa became an attractive destination for foreign investments due to its high growth rate, the rising middle class and its resource abundance, particularly in the energy sector. In recent years, dependence on oil resources increased and remains a priority for Indian investments abroad. The growing pressure of Indian demography requires more energy imports. Energy holds a major share in India Africa trade flows. 

Over the last twenty years, Indian investments on the continent experienced robust growth, allowing the country to become a strategic partner for African development.

India has a long history of military engagement in UN peacekeeping operations . Over the last 70 years, India has deployed around 240 000 military troops and police officers in the framework of UN missions, becoming the largest troop contributor in UN history. 


Key insights

  • Despite its efforts to strengthen its bonds with Africa, India's economic footprint is hindered by limited means (finance, technology, industrial production). 
  • If India is unable to reach the full potential of its engagement with the continent would it consider the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as an option? 
  • Chinese conditions could, amongst other consequences, weaken India's position regarding its territorial disputes. 
  • The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor was first mentioned in a joint statement following a visit of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in India in 2016. This program aims at connecting Asian and African countries to multiply trade and economic opportunities. Although it is attractive on paper, in 2019, neither India, Japan on one side nor African partners spoke about the AAGC. For the time being, the first steps of the AAGC are yet to be implemented. 
  • Africa is attracting foreign interests thanks to its economic opportunities. In this situation, African countries could use Indian participation in this competition to their benefit by diversifying their partners and their economies, building more resilience.
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