India to partner African resurgence, denies China rivalry

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NEW DELHI - Rejecting any competition or rivalry with China in Africa, India Thursday said its relations with the continent stand on their own and highlighted its plan to jointly combat terrorism and scale up bilateral economic ties.

India’s relations with Africa stand on their own feet. We are not in competition with anyone, Vivek Katju, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, said at a seminar on India-Africa partnership.

Stressing that capacity building and human resource development are at the heart of India’s engagement with Africa, Katju added that India and Africa will jointly combat new threats of piracy and terrorism, and will cooperate in pushing reforms of international institutions, including the United Nations.

The day-long seminar, organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, focused on the economic resurgence of Africa and explored different models of engaging the resurgent continent that boasts of some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

It’s an old relationship, very mature and very productive. It has worked for us and it has worked for them, Katju stressed.

He, however, took an oblique dig at China’s approach towards Africa, which is seen by some critics as neo-colonial and exploitative.

An exploitative relationship is something that is ephemeral. It’s intrinsically ephemeral, he said.

India’s bilateral trade with Africa is around $40 billion compared to China-Africa trade which has already exceeded $100 billion. India likes to present its partnership with Africa as one which is focused on trade, technology transfer, capacity building and human resource development compared to China’s perceived focus on extractive resources and oil.

Underlining key features of India’s development-centric partnership with Africa, Katju said the two sides which fought against colonialism are now engaged in a common struggle against poverty.

We are engaged in a common struggle - which is perhaps more challenging - in the common task of development and of lifting people out of poverty, he said.

Rwanda’s High Commissioner William Nkurunziza, Ethiopia’s Ambassador Gennet Zewide, India’s former high commissioner to South Africa R.K. Bhatia, India’s former envoy to Nigeria H.H.S. Viswanathan, and Navdeep Suri, joint secretary (public diplomacy) in the MEA, were among those who participated in the discussions.

Rwanda’s envoy stressed on moving the India-Africa partnership beyond government-to-government contacts to a larger interaction between businesses, media and civil society.

It has to be a complete partnership that involves the government, the people, the media and civil society, he said.

The centuries-old relationship between India and Africa must evolve with changing times, he said.

He exhorted the Indian media to focus on highlighting positive stories of resurgence and renewal that will enable a better understanding of each other’s society and culture.

Capturing the ongoing resurgence of Africa, M. Rasgotra, former foreign secretary and president of the ORF, spoke about the rise of democracy in Africa and underlined the need to develop African resources in Africa for the African people.

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