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India steps up military ties with Africa, training will be the way forward

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave in Pune on Tuesday (All images courtesy: PIB)

India assured on Tuesday that it will remain at the forefront of providing training to the Armed Forces of African nations and equipping them with the necessary skills to face the security challenges of the 21st century.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that India will continue to work with African nations to promote regional security, foster stability and enhance the defence capabilities together.

Addressing the first edition of ‘India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave’ organised on the sidelines of the second Africa-India Joint Exercise ‘AfiIndex’ in Pune, Singh reiterated India’s commitment to providing support to African partner countries in all defence-related matters. This also includes capability enhancement of their Armed Forces to ensure their economic growth and social development.

The Conclave was attended by Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande and chiefs and representatives of 31 African nations, along with other civil and defence dignitaries.

It was structured on the central theme of ‘Africa-India Militaries for Regional Unity – AMRUT’ and aimed at strengthening synergy between the militaries of India and African nations as part of a regional cooperation mechanism.

Defence Minister emphasised that the full potential of a nation’s progress can be realised only when its security is ensured.

“Development can only take place in a safe and secure environment. Though many of us have come a long way since our independence, there are many African countries where the capacity building of state systems is still a work in progress,” he stated.

India’s training programmes for the Armed Forces of African nations cover a wide range of areas, including counter-insurgency operations, peacekeeping, maritime security and specialised training in new domains such as cyber warfare and drone operations.

It also encompasses training civilians in areas such as disaster management, humanitarian aid and medical assistance. A large number of African countries’ Armed Forces personnel continue to visit India for training in different areas.

Singh added that the joint exercises between India and African nations provide an excellent opportunity for the Armed Forces to learn from each other and promote interoperability. He termed ‘AfiIndex’ as a reflection of India’s continued focus on African nations to develop capacities and enhance mutual capabilities.

“As maritime neighbours linked by the Indian Ocean, our cooperation in maritime security and hydrography and countering terrorism and extremism will be essential for regional peace and prosperity,” he said.

He described capacity building in terms of defence equipment and platforms as another critical aspect of India’s military cooperation with its Africa partners.

“The Indian defence industry can work with you to fulfil your defence requirements. With the aim to empower our African friends to indigenously meet their defence requirements, we are also committed to sharing our expertise and knowledge in defence manufacturing, research and development,” he said.

The Indian Defence Minister mentioned that this partnership drives the South-South cooperation to build a truly multipolar world order which is more responsive to the aspirations of developing countries.

He pointed out that the people of India and Africa together represent a third of humanity, a demographic dividend which has to be used wisely. Singh also called for turning this huge human resource into an engine of growth and development.

“Today, Africa is today home to more than a billion vibrant people, with more than two thirds of them under the age of 35. If this human capital is supported with the right opportunities, it will become the growth engine for not just Africa, but also for the entire world,” he added.

Singh also extended India’s expertise in digital and clean and green technologies for the benefit of African nations. He made special mention of India’s achievement of financial inclusion of the entire citizenry through Unified Payment Interface (UPI), describing it as a financial revolution. He also stressed that the exchange of ideas and practices will be two-way and India is keen to learn from the experiences of its African friends.

The Conclave focussed on joint training and defence cooperation amongst the nations to evolve an institutionalised framework in order to enhance collaboration in the fields of joint military training, execution of peacekeeping operations; besides promoting Indian defence industries.

It is a major landmark in deep-rooted defence ties between India and African nations, thereby enhancing regional cooperation.