External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday pitched for closer defence cooperation between the Indian and the African military forces in view of the affinity between military doctrines and protocols. At the inauguration of the 15th CII Exim Bank Digital Conclave on India-Africa Project Partnership, the Minister said India is a trustworthy partner of Africa and that the rise of Africa in international affairs is part of the global system’s rebalancing.

“It is no surprise therefore that defence and security cooperation is a key 21st century pillar for India and Africa. India has helped set up Staff and Command Colleges in several African countries and has trained many officers and soldiers in Indian military institutions. Our military traditions, command structures, training protocols and strategic doctrines are extremely compatible,” said Mr. Jaishankar.

The Minister said African partners have appreciated India’s peacekeeping operations in the past and described the use of Indian maritime capacities in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions as the “new frontier”.

Mr. Jaishankar described engagement with Africa as among the “earliest and most important vectors” of post-colonial India’s foreign policy. Recounting Indian and African collaboration against colonial struggle, Mr. Jaishankar said, “Together, we fought the good fight and together we have built our societies.”

“This solidarity is the foundation of the Global Southern Awakening. It is weighed in values, not tabulated in transactions,” said Mr. Jaishankar who supported the rise of Africa as a ‘pole’ of the global system.

He described this emergence as “absolutely necessary”. “Broader global rebalancing is incomplete without the genuine emergence of Africa. Only then the world’s strategic diversity come into full play.”

Mr. Jaishankar said India has funded projects to help equity and entrepreneurship of Africa. Making an indirect reference to the usual criticism of China-funded development activities, he said Indian projects are aimed to ‘empower’ and not to “extract [resources] from local communities”. China-backed projects in Africa were in the past criticised for being exploitative in nature.

The Minister said India is Africa’s third-largest export destination and is one of the biggest investors in the continent. Mr. Jaishankar said India has cumulative investment of $54 billion in Africa. In view of the evolving partnership, India has scaled up diplomatic presence in the continent.

“India now has residential missions in 38 African nations and more are in the pipeline. A quarter of these have opened in the past two year,” said Mr. Jaishankar.