India Ignored, China Embraced

If you want to participate or contribute a blog entry, please contact the editorial board:

john.njenga.karugia's picture

If China invited Kenya to Beijing today, Kenya would reply with possible visit dates almost immediately. An Africa-summit that India is planning to host in 2014 has been completely ignored by Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Indian Ambassador to Kenya is desperately trying to invite Kenya's president to New Delhi, so far, to no avail. If, today, the Chinese ambassador in Kenya requested the ear of Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it would take a few moments to fix a quick appointment.

For the five months that he has been in Kenya, the Indian Ambassador has been completely ignored by officials at Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to a recent article in the Standard Media newspaper (Shiundu, 2014). He has received no reply to his letters and in September 2014, he paid a visit to the Speaker of Kenya's Parliament, seeking intervention so that he can access Kenya's head of Foreign Affairs as well as intervention in inviting Kenya's President Kenyatta to India. He mentioned that apart from him and his wife, their daughter was denied a residential visa. Also, that Indians pay Ksh. 400.000 (approx. 3600 Euros) for a work permit per year while Chinese pay Ksh. 30.000 (approx. 270 Euros) per year to work in Kenya. "What is happening?" he asked. The Indian Ambassador noted that India has "no problem with Chinese investments in Kenya" and gave the Speaker "an open invitation to India and 16 fully-paid slots for parliamentary staff to be trained on bicameralism." Kenya has a huge Indian diaspora that has lived in Kenya since many generations, approximately 200 years according to modern records. Indian labour built Nairobi and many Kenyan railway cities during British colonial rule. While contemporary state-sponsored Chinese investments are prominently gigantic, the Indian state has very little if anything to show that matches China's current engagement. Kenya is definitely unwilling to send President Uhuru Kenyatta to New Delhi because he will not bring back anything significant like the billions in railway funding from China (Daily Nation, 2014) for the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway he got during his last visit to Beijing (Standard Media, 2014).

India will not and cannot (yet) afford to fund major construction projects abroad or offer thousands of scholarships to African students like China does. While unlike China, the Indian state has been sluggish in strategising on how to deal with Africa's political elites, the private sector in India has unbreakable and very significant ties with East African economies. Kenya's modern economy for example once used the Indian Rupee as trading currency and today, the Indian diaspora in Kenya i.e. Kenyan-Indians, makes a major contribution to Kenya's economy. Medical tourism from Kenya to India is ever significant since it is much cheaper than western and other eastern nations for the same or even better quality. Despite these deep ties, a wall of ice currently stands between India's ambassador and Kenya's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In my view, there is nothing to loose for the Kenyan state since India-Kenya ties are and have always mostly been run by very industrious Kenyan-Indians and indispensable Indian private transnational investors and especially the person to person networks amongst businesspeople across Kenya, East Africa and beyond.



 Shiundu, Alphonce 2014: Kenya's Foreign Ministry has Snubbed Me, India Envoy Says, Standard Media Newspaper, Nairobi. (last accessed 16.09.2014)

 Standard Media 2014: China Set to Start Work on Standard Gauge Railway, Nairobi. (last accessed 16.09.2014)

Daily Nation 2014: China Rewards Kenya's Friendship With Billions (last accessed 16.09.2014)




author(s) / editor(s):