From the 26th to the 29th of October, India is, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief coordinator of the India-Africa Summit 2015 Mr. Syed Akbaruddin, celebrating a superlative, since it is the only country that has been able to host government representatives from all 54 African countries and African Union officials under one roof for a summit outside Africa, (IAFS, 2015).
The 2015 India-Africa Summit (IAFS) is taking place in New Delhi at the Indira Gandhi Stadium and it is one of India’s biggest diplomatic events ever. During his monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’, Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted that “India Africa Forum Summit is being held here. On Indian soil, it is for the first time that an event of such a big scale is being held. Leaders of 54 African countries and Unions have been invited. Outside Africa, this is the biggest convention” (Modi, 2015).
Trade is the keyword for this summit but political and cultural interactions are being emphasized too. Currently, Africa-India trade stands at US$75 billion for the 2014-2015 period (India Times, 2015). Amongst other products, 15% of India’s oil is imported from Nigeria and India currently supports 141 projects in 41 African countries. India’s largest trading partners in descending order are: Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Mauritius and Algeria (India Ministry of Commerce and Industry, 2015).
While some analysts have framed Africa as India’s next frontier and some see Africa as the next battleground between China and India, India-Africa relations have been going on for thousands of years with African Diasporas and Indian Diasporas being existent both in India and Africa respectively. Prime Minister Modi has already visited Seychelles and Mauritius during his term in office. Both countries are home to huge Indian Diasporas (HCI Seychelles 2015; HCI Mauritius 2015).
Seeking to connect deeper, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been quoted making interesting claims that “It is said that lakhs of years back, this (India and Africa) was a single land mass. Later, due to the Indian Ocean, it split into two…there are a lot of similarities between us…Around 27 lakh Indians have been living in Africa for a long time” (Modi, 2015). These comments caused an Indian analyst to ask whether India is reclaiming an old continent.
Beyond India-Africa ties, there is more geopolitical maneuvering at play seen from the statement by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her inaugural address at the 3rd India-Africa Editors Forum when she noted that “The Security Council continues to be representative of a world order of 1945. It is inconceivable that the Security Council today does not have any permanent representation from Africa which is the largest continent in terms of number of countries” (Rajya Sabha 2015).
According to the Indian government, the 2015 IAFS summit, which is taking place on 26th-29th October, “enables consultations at the highest political level between the heads of government of 54 nations across Africa and the Indian government to give a new thrust to our age-old partnership. It provides an opportunity to not only reflect on the past, but to define the road ahead in tune with the times we live in” (IAFS, 2015).
As all African government and Unions representatives receive Kurtas from Prime Minister Modi and they too offer gifts during the India-Africa Summit 2015, New Delhi is experiencing diplomacy at its finest.
IAFS (India-Africa Summit) 2015: Welcome to the India-Africa Forum Summit 2015
India Ministry of Commerce and Industry
India Times 2015: Trade Ministers to meet next week ahead of India-Africa Summit
HCI (High Commission of India) Seychelles 2015
HCI (High Commission of India) Mauritius 2015
Modi, Narendra 2015; PM’s October ‘Mann ki Baat’ on All India Radio
Rajya Sabha TV 2015: India-Africa summit set to look at strengthening ties