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India-Tanzania reboot showcases Modi’s post Covid re-engagement with Global South

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan with President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday (Image courtesy: MEA)

Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s State visit to India –just after Army Chief General Manoj Pande’s trip to the East African nation last week, is crucial for New Delhi and the Indo Pacific geopolitical contours. Tanzania will seek greater support from India in the area of healthcare. India, which has raised the pitch for “One Earth, One Family, One Future” as part of its overall focus on the Global South, has indicated that it is ready to handhold countries and partners in supporting social sectors including healthcare and education.

According to estimates, India receives about 50,000 African patients every year, seeking medical assistance starting from minor surgeries to dealing with organ transplants, cancer treatment and heart diseases. The number is expected to rise significantly in the coming years.

Insufficient funds, lack of trained doctors and nurses and poor medical infrastructure have come up as major challenges for Tanzania in the area of healthcare services. Though Dar es Salam has initiated reforms to upgrade the healthcare sector, it is still fraught with shortcomings.

India and Tanzania have been increasing cooperation in “strategic sectors such as water, health, agriculture, ICT, blue economy, education, trade and investment and agriculture,” Tanzanian news organisation Daily News said. The news organisation added that Hassan’s four-day visit to New Delhi underscores her government’s commitment to enhance and deepen the friendship and bilateral cooperation between Tanzania and India, which has been existing for decades.

“India as our 14 formidable members in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Commonwealth, and Group of 77 (G77) in the United Nations, continues to be our voice and mouthpiece in avenues where we do not have a seat. We trust India’s leadership not because of its sheer size and economy, but because of its historical contribution and moral standing,” Hassan said while speaking at the Jawaharlal University.

Interestingly, in July External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar paid a visit to Tanzania just after his trip to Kenya, in January, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla led a delegation to Nairobi and Dar es Salam.

Brookings in a report noted that India and Africa’s historical links have experienced a revival in recent years, and there are strong reasons for optimism that the partnership could be mutually beneficial. In fact, in recent years, and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, India made moves that indicate its intention to become Africa’s biggest partner. It also said that Present mega trends in Africa are supportive of India’s trade and investments in the region. Africa’s large working-age population, its growing middle class, and the significant share of services are all ingredients for value-adding trade and investment relationships.

India is Tanzania’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade touching $6.5 billion in 2022-23. In 2017-18, it was $2.6 billion. India is also among the top five investment sources in Tanzania.

Notably, China, also a prominent voice in the continent, has been reducing lending to the continent. According to Reuters, Chinese sovereign lending to Africa fell below $1 billion last year – the lowest level in nearly two decades – underscoring Beijing’s shift away from a decades-long big ticket infrastructure spree on the continent.

Meanwhile, Hassan, who met Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged India’s role as the G20 chair and being instrumental in inducting the African Union in the grouping. While Tanzania will seek greater support from India to strengthen social sectors such as health and education, it will seek a larger quantum of foreign direct investments as well from New Delhi. In a major move, the first overseas campus of Indian Institute of Technology will be set up in Tanzania.

The Tanzanian President’s visit ahead of the India-African summit slated to take place in December could have far reaching consequences. Hassan has not only reaffirmed the country’s participation but assured India of all support required to make the summit a success.

Also read: Watch: Tanzanian President accorded ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan