China, with its multibillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, has fast expanded its footprint in Africa as the “New Great Game” plays out in the world’s second-largest continent known for its minerals and other raw commodities.
India may not have China’s economic wherewithal but is trying to leverage its long-standing ties and military expertise with African nations.
Towards this end, the inaugural Africa-India field training exercise-2019 (AFINDEX-19)”, being held from March 18 to 27, is aimed at training the participating nations in “humanitarian mine action” (de-mining and other protocols to handle landmines and explosives) and UN peace-keeping operations, in which India has decades of experience.
Major General Sanjeev Sharma, general officer commanding of the Golden Katar Division, was the chief guest at the opening ceremony of AFINDEX-19, which included a fly-past by the Army’s Dhruv advanced light helicopters and Cheetah choppers.
The 17 African nations participating in the exercise are Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“The exercise will focus on best practices, team-building and tactical-level operations in conduct of UN-mandated tasks ranging from establishing a new mission and protection of civilians to nuances of combat deployment, convoy protection, patrolling aspects and humanitarian mine assistance,” said an official.
TOI in December last year had reported that India was now making a concerted effort for a concrete military outreach to Africa after a diplomatic one, which also saw Army chief General Bipin Rawat visit Tanzania and Kenya in recent months.
India has also been holding defence cooperation talks with countries like Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. The defence engagement with South Africa is, of course, at a much higher level, with warships and aircraft from the two nations along with Brazil regularly holding the IBSAMAR naval exercise.