Not competing with China for Africa, says India

May 5th, 2011 - 5:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) With China making deep inroads through business and investment in Africa, India has said it was not in competition with Beijing in furthering economic interests there, but would play a complementary role.

“India is not in competition with China and I do believe the description is accurate. In may cases, India and china complement each other,” Vivek Katju, secretary (west) in the external affairs ministry, said.

“It (complementary role) is not through any deliberate process. But there are strengths there (China) and there are strengths here (India),” he said at a roundtable held at the India International Centre Wednesday evening ahead of India-Africa summit in May 23-25 in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital and headquarters of the African Union. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will represent India at the summit with a high-level delegation.

Katju was responding to comments on how China was spreading its influence in the African continent much faster than India and for India to catch up with them.

He said India’s approach towards its interaction with Africa was to be “respectful” to what that continent wants and that India would not be “prescriptive.”

“Our approach is very simple. When it comes to our interaction with Africa, we are respectful of what Africa wants. If Africa is our interlocutor, then we will not be prescriptive. It is not for us to be prescriptive,” he said.

Katju said India would “never” have a relation with Africa that was exploitative in commerce.

“I do believe that that is the only basis for us to construct an enduring relationship. We wouldn’t like anyone to dictate to us how we run our polity, society and economic,” he said, noting that India would apply this same yardstick for Africa too.

India, the secretary said, was conscious of the rise of Africa and that the Indian foreign office followed the process there.

“It is in response to these process that our cooperation is now on a three-tier format — bilateral, regional and pan-African.”

Katju said bilateral cooperation was continuing “very strongly” and the regional-level interaction was “very profitable.”

The pan-African interaction had led to the creation of four institutions furthering the India-Africa partnership on which more consultations were in progress.

“This is a comprehensive approach and we will continue,” he added.

On a suggestion that the Banjul Protocol was restricting the number of African nations that are represented in the India-Africa summit, Katju said this was what Africa wanted.

“It is for Africa to decide when we are in the India-Africa Forum Summit as to who will represent Africa. They have decided at Banjul that certain membership and we are abiding by them. If they change would would represent them, we would be very glad to accept that change,” he added.

India and 15 representative nations from the 53-nation continent are participating in the Second India-Africa Forum Summit. The first summit was held in New Delhi in 2008.

Earlier, Egyptian Ambassador to India Khaled el Bakly said the winds of change sweeping north Africa would bring opportunities for cooperation with India.

“But be smart and be fast. Because China is faster than you are,” Bakly told India.

He said Africa would like to see India and China competing with each other to enhance their economic relations with the African nations because they were against any monopoly.

“We from our side would want to see such a competition. We would not want to see a monopoly. We would want to see someone coming with a real will to hold strong relations, without conditionality.

Others, who participated and expressed their views on India-Africa relations, were South Africa High Commissioner Harris M. Majeke, Nigeria’s acting High Commissioner Adeboblo Labiran, Ethiopian Ambassador Gennet Zewide, former Indian foreign secretary Shashank and some leading media personalities including Sakal group consulting editor Vijay Naik and The Hindu’s associate editor Siddharth Varadarajan.

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