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India helping Africa overcome terrorism, poverty behind region's instability: Shringla

Many countries in Africa are facing fragility because of the threats of terrorism and economic problems and India is working with nations in the continent to tackle these and other challenges, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday.

"Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism training is one of the significant areas of our defence training programmes," Shringla told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) during a debate on the "Challenges of Maintaining Peace and Security in Fragile Contexts".

In helping them deal with poverty, he said, "Under our development partnership with Africa, India has reached out to 43 African countries; we have executed 189 developmental projects in 37 African countries; and around 77 projects are under execution with a total outlay of $12.86 billion."

The session was presided over by Tunisian President Kais Saied whose country holds the presidency of the Council for this month.

Tunisia called the debate on fragile states as a matter of importance given that the nation is in an area of instability, abutting Libya and facing spillover effects from Niger, Sudan and Chad that are in the vicinity.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, "According to the World Bank Fragility and Conflict Report, one of every five people in the Middle East and North Africa lives in close proximity to a major conflict."

Because of this, "humanitarian needs have multiplied, reaching the highest levels since the Second World War".

Shringla said that the main factors behind the fragility of nations in Africa "are chronic political instability; weak governance structures; institutional weaknesses; ethnic divisions; and the presence of terrorist and armed groups" in addition to over-exploitation of diminishing resources.

But "the foundational basis of the current instabilities that plague the African continent is the legacy of colonialism".

As a contributor for over 60 years to numerous peacekeeping operations in Africa, Shringla said India had seen the missions struggling to implement their ambitious mandates.

India wanted to ensure that the UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions are given adequate mandates and given sufficient resources, Shringla said.

He pointed out that more than half the issues before the Council related to Africa, yet it had no permanent members on the body.

"We need to correct this historical anomaly," he said, pressing the case of Council reforms.

On the technology front, he said that the Covid-19 pandemic "has brought us unparalleled grief but also helped us to do things differently".

"We need to factor in technology with a human face in this mix," he said, and in this regard, "premier Indian institutions and hospitals have been linked to 16 African countries to offer tele-education and tele-medicine services through the e-Vidya Bharati and e-Arogya Bharati portals".

Guterres said the situation has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Calling for multi-pronged action to deal with the conflicts, inequality and poverty that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, "The linkages between conflict and fragility have been particularly visible in the African continent. In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, fragility has been exacerbated by transboundary threats such as climate change, terrorism, transnational organised crime, and the proliferation of armed groups."