Ahead of Africa summit, India says West pitting it against China (Lead)

May 23rd, 2011 - 10:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Addis Ababa, May 23 (IANS) A day before its second summit with African leaders, India Monday accused the West of trying to conjure up an arena of rivalry between New Delhi and Beijing in Africa and sought to distinguish its development-centric approach revolving around trade, training and capacity building.

“Africa has tremendous economic potential. It’s a continent on the move. For us, it’s an opportunity and for the rest of the world also it is an opportunity,” Indian officials accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Ethiopia said.

“There is enough space for India and what it is good at - skill development, training, capacity building,” the officials said while rejecting any neo-scramble for Africa.

Manmohan Singh touched down in the Ethiopian capital to a red carpet welcome for the second India-Africa Forum Summit that begins Tuesday. He was warmly received at the Bole airport by Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. There were colourful ceremonies and dances as Manmohan Singh landed at Addis Ababa, the seat of the African Union (AU) and the diplomatic capital of Africa.

Amid speculation in the Western media about India competing with China for Africa’s resources and markets, Indian officials stressed that the West was trying to conjure up a scenario of rivalry. “The West is setting up Africa as a zone of contention. They want us (India and China) to be at each other’s throat. They want to play India against China,” they said.

Denying that India had been outsmarted by China in pushing its interests in Africa, officials sought to distinguish India’s development-centric approach from what it sees as China’s resource-driven forays into the African continent.

“There is a large Chinese presence in the continent. They are mostly focused on infrastructure, raw materials and extractive industries.

“Chinese commercial presence is concentrated. Ours is small business presence scattered throughout Africa,” a senior Indian official said.

India has made a rapid economic thrust into Africa in recent years, but it still lags far behind with its bilateral trade of around $45 billion, less than half of that of China’s trade with Africa, which is estimated to be close to $108 billion.

Unlike China, which has tended to focus on hydrocarbons and extractive resources in Africa, India has prided itself in putting capacity building and training at the heart of its engagement with Africa. Trade, technology transfer and training are, in fact, the three pillars that frame India’s multi-faceted engagement with Africa.

China’s aggressive pursuit of its economic interests in Africa has created a backlash in some African countries, which feel that China is behaving like a neo-colonial power in Africa.

India says its engagement with Africa, grounded in the shared struggle against colonialism and apartheid, is aimed at resurgence and empowerment of the African people. This will be Manmohan Singh’s central message at the summit, a top official source disclosed.

In his departure statement Sunday night, Manmohan Singh also touched on key aspects of India’s Africa policy and underlined the commitment of the two sides to democracy, pluralism and the spirit of entrepreneurship. The emphasis on democracy was significant and was a veiled critique of Beijing’s no-strings policy of befriending some autocratic regimes in Africa.

At the summit, Manmohan Singh is expected to announce fresh lines of credit worth $500 million for a host of infrastructure projects and increase the number of scholarships for African students under the Indian government’s flagship Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

The summit will culminate Wednesday in the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation that will map out an ambitious blueprint of the India-Africa engagement for the next few years.

India hosted the first summit in April 2008.

The two sides plan to fashion a robust strategic partnership that will entail expansion of trade and investment on the one hand and closer coordination over a range of global issues including terrorism, piracy, climate change and UN reforms.

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