Sunday, November 17, 2013

'India, Africa should have strategic dialogue for better understanding'

Indians and Africans should have more Track-II dialogues for greater understanding that would help prevent the kind of situation provoked by the recent incidents in involving Nigerians.
"There is a lot of ignorance about ; that breeds prejudices and stereotyping," says Arvind Gupta, director general of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). "If we knew each other well, these kind of incidents involving Nigerians, wouldn't have happened, or their capacity to affect relations would be much contained."
Speaking to IANS ahead of the second -Africa strategic dialogue beginning here Monday, Gupta said "India and Africa should begin discussing at the strategic level".
Since governments generally discuss bilateral issues like trade and investments, Track II diplomacy involving such strategic dialogues are key to increasing the understanding of each other.
"In a few decades some of the most important countries of the globe will be from Africa, like , Nigeria, Angola. It is vital to know Africa's views on issues of global governance like restructuring of the UN, the Security Council, financial institutions," Gupta said.
Saying how with 54 countries Africa is a major voice in the reordering of global governance, Gupta pointed out that most matters discussed in the UN Security Council happened to be from the continent.
"It is impoprtant to know their (African) views, for instance, on UN peacekeeping, energy security, terrorism, drugs and human trafficking, as well as on hard core security issues like the wars in Africa. The US has set up an Africa command also as a key move against terror," the IDSA director said.
This second India-Africa strategic dialogue is also being organised keeping in mind the continent's growing relations with India.
With the theme of "Common Security Challenges for the Next Decade: Perspectives from India and Africa" the two-day dialogue will discuss issues like terrorism, maritime security and the energy challenge in India and Africa.
India and Africa are now connected also through multilateral fora like IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORARC).
"On the premise that the Indian Ocean is a natural area for us, the entire African coast facing us is important for us. In fact, island countries like Mauritius and Seychelles are absolutely vital for us," said Gupta.
"We have to tell Africans about what our policy is on the Indian Ocean, we need to have a strategic dialogue."
As an instance of maritime cooperation, the strategic expert mentioned how India had sent a ship to Mozambique during the African Games, for assisting the authorities with surveillance work.
IANS had earlier reported on the naval cooperation with Djibouti in the Horn of Africa to combat the threat posed by piracy off the coast of Somalia. Indian ships call on the port of Djibouti for the purpose.
Greater economic engagement has also been crucial for boosting ties between Africa and India. India's trade with Africa amounted to $68 billion in 2011-12. At the third India-Africa Trade Ministers' meeting earlier this year, the trade target was set at $100 billion for 2015.
"Going ahead, such a dialogue should be institutionalised, and will be once the India Africa Forum Summit gets institutionalised," Gupta said signing off.
The second India Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in Addis Ababa in May 2011 emphasised the renewed focus of India to strengthen and enhance its partnership with countries in the African continent. The 3rd IAFS is due to take place in New Delhi next year.

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