Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Third India-Africa Forum Summit: A Critical Evaluation

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Third India-Africa Forum Summit: A Critical Evaluation

Article excerpt

The mention of 'India' and 'Africa' together evokes memories of an old and long journey, marked by the frequent reference to Gondwana land of millions of years ago when the two formed part of the same landmass; adventures of commercial and cultural exchanges that began in the pre-Christian era; proximity and problems created by colonization; a shared struggle for independence and emancipation under common icons; and contemporary quest for development, a just world order and strategic partnership. Today, as the major powers compete to strengthen their cooperation with Africa, it is essential to underline that, as compared to them, India has enjoyed the oldest association and the longest friendship with the peoples of the African continent. It is an invaluable legacy and a solid foundation on which to build our common dreams and future plans.

The Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III), held in New Delhi from 26-29 October 2015, was a memorable milestone in the above-mentioned journey. It is not that African leaders came to India for a conference for the first time; they had come in substantial numbers earlier to attend the Non-Aligned Summit in 1983. But, in October 2015, India hosted a historic summit where all 54 countries of Africa were represented, 41 of them at the level of head of state or government.1 This was unprecedented, making it the largest gathering of Africa's high representatives on the Indian soil. Their presence under one roof at Indira Gandhi stadium in Delhi on 29 October 2015 was a message in itself.

This essay attempts to delve deep in order to evaluate the outcomes of the summit. Did the conference achieve tangible results-both from the Indian and African perspectives? It will first delineate the immediate backdrop and context, and then trace the highlights of the two previous summits. The stage will thus be set for an in-depth examination of how the third summit was organized; how it unfolded; and what it achieved and/or failed to achieve. The overall purpose is to take stock of India's Africa engagement at the end of 2015, and reflect on the road ahead that leads to the fourth summit in 2020.

The Backdrop

Much had happened in the world, including Africa and India, during the period 2011-15, bookended by the second and the third summits. The global economy continued to face slow and uneven growth. The world's attention was focused on US-China strategic competition in East Asia and Russia-West tensions in Europe. The Arab Spring went astray, with tragic consequences in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while Europe continued to be mired in its problems ranging from economic stagnation to the massive inflow of refugees and migrants from Arab and African lands. The UN graduated from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The international community was engaged in preparations for the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris and the WTO in Nairobi, both of which followed IAFS-III.

Parts of West Africa were ravaged by the Ebola epidemic which presented a huge challenge. It was the reason why the third summit had to be postponed by a year. Terrorism and the rise of radicalism became a serious problem in several African countries. While piracy was contained off the coast of Somalia, it seemed to have shifted base by re-surfacing on the western coast. On the positive side, Africa's economic resurgence assumed noticeable salience. Besides, African governments displayed remarkable unity and ambition by crafting-and drawing attention to-the African Union (AU)-inspired 'Agenda 2063.' It listed seven 'aspirations', ranging from 'inclusive growth and sustainable development' to Africa becoming 'a strong, united and influential global player and partner.'2

In India, the UPA government led by Dr. Manmohan Singh, which had hosted IAFS-I and represented India at IAFS-II, was replaced by a new NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2014. …

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