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From healthcare to defence, Tanzania becomes fulcrum of India’s outreach in western Indian Ocean

Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi (Image courtesy: Directorate of Presidential Communications, Tanzania)

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s State visit to New Delhi earlier this month – marking the first by any African leader after the inclusion of the African Union in the G20 frame – was not an ordinary one. A host of Indian companies including healthcare majors such as Max and Apollo, are already looking to either invest in Tanzania or expand their existing operations.

With China already cementing its presence in the African country, experts opine that India should increase its focus on development sectors which include health, water management along with provision of drinking water and education besides the country’s digital framework.

Last year, Apollo Hospitals Group and Eclipse Group, Africa signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish a cancer treatment centre in Dar es Salaam. The partnership will allow Apollo Hospitals to provide healthcare services with advanced cancer care treatments in the country. The partnership will help patients from neighbouring countries to seek treatment as well.

“African countries are hoping to get more support from India in the social sectors—especially health. While India has been contributing in the health sector, it should look at further expanding its presence in this area,” an analyst told India Narrative.

India has also extended Lines of Credits (LoCs) amounting to over $1.1 billion covering fields of drinking water infrastructure, agriculture and defence.

India-supported water projects of $500 million running in 24 towns in Tanzania, once completed, will provide easy access to safe drinking water to about six million residents of these regions.

“These projects which touch the lives of the people and therefore, these go a long way in creating goodwill. India’s focus on the social sector will be a differentiator between New Delhi and Beijing,” the analyst said.

As India and Tanzania elevated their ties to the level of strategic partnership during Hassan’s visit, Dar es Salam could serve as an important platform for India as the latter tries to boost ties and outreach with the rest of Africa.

The two countries, which share maritime borders, are set to look at starting trade in local currencies.

Tanzania’s role in SAGAR policy

Dar es Salam will also play a key role in the Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR) vision of India. SAGAR programme unveiled in 2015 is aimed at strengthening marine cooperation and security especially amid China’s aggressive moves in the region.

In June this year, India and Tanzania set up a five-year roadmap for defence cooperation. Just before Hassan’s trip to India, Chief of Army Staff Manoj Pande was in Tanzania to take stock of the existing defence ties while Tanzania’s Defence Minister Stergomena Tax visited India in August 2022 and February this year. The two countries are also keen to expand the collaboration in newer areas of defence.

India has already deployed an Indian Military Training Team (IMTT) at Tanzania’s Command and Staff College in Duluti.

According to Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, the fact that India has successfully hosted mini-Defence Expos twice in Dar es Salaam in May 2022 and October 2023 is an indication of the growing interest between both the countries in expanding their cooperation in the defence industry. “The Tanzanian example serves as a perfect template which India should try to implement in other African countries along the Western Indian Ocean region like Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, among others,” it said.

Given the challenges posed by China in the Indian Ocean, it is time for both India and Tanzania to re-orient their relations from focusing on training to a partnership that is more strategic in nature, the institute noted.

As the chair of the G20 India has positioned itself as the voice of the Global South.

Last year while unveiling the 2023 G20 summit logo and theme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the effort should be to ensure there is only one world by removing barriers including “First World” or “Third World”.

“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 during her trip to India.

Also read: India locks in Tanzania for mineral security as Africa buzzes on New Delhi’s radar