China and India follow different approaches to emerging Africa

July 29 2018

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Speculations and comparisons have been rife following Prime Minister  Narendra Modis three-nation tour of Africa July 23-27 since it  overlapped with Chinese President Xi Jinpings visit to a continent on  the rise, but experts here say that Indias engagement with the 54-nation  continent simply cannot be compared to that of China given Beijings  deep pockets.

While China roped in Senegal and Rwanda for Xi's  pet Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), gifted a stadium to Senegal, signed  15 mega-deals with Rwanda the value of which is not known, and committed  $14.7 billion in investments in South Africa, India gifted 200 cows to  Rwanda under a national economic development scheme, extended $200  million worth of credit lines each to Rwanda and Uganda and signed four  deals each with Rwanda and Uganda, including in the area of defence  cooperation, and three with South Africa.

"Regardless of what  China is doing in Africa, India will continue to pursue its interests  there within the framework of its capabilities," former Indian  Ambassador to South Africa and Kenya Rajiv Bhatia told IANS.

"It is wrong to judge India's actions in Africa from the Chinese prism," Bhatia said.

According  to an article in the China Daily, Beijing has helped Africa build more  than 6,500 km of railways, over 6,000 km of highways, more than 200  schools, 80 stadiums, dozens of government office building and a large  number of airports and ports.

In his address to the Ugandan  Parliament on July 25, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, Modi said:  "Our development partnership currently includes implementation of 180  lines of credit worth about $11 billion in over 40 African countries. At  the last India Africa Forum Summit (in New Delhi in 2015), we had  committed a concessional line of credit of $10 billion and $600 million  in grant assistance."

According to C. Uday Bhaskar, strategic  analyst and Director of the Society for Policy Studies (SPS) think tank,  "compete" is not the appropriate word when one looks at the engagements  of India and China with Africa.

"India can and should engage with Africa notwithstanding what China is doing," Bhaskar said.

"New  Delhi may not be able to compete or match the kind of financial support  or gifts that Beijing offers since China has much deeper pockets but  most nations are aware that more often than not, there are strings,  conditional clauses, expectations with Chinese gifts."

Stating  that India is still evolving its Africa strategy, Bhaskar said: "My  sense is that most of Africa ‘trusts' India more than they do China  though the deeply entrenched Indian racist trait is shameful."

He  was alluding to a series of attacks on Africans in India in recent  years which African diplomats here have seriously taken note of.

According  to Malancha Chakraborty, Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation  think tank and an expert on India-Africa relations, India just cannot  compete in terms of trade and investment in Africa with China at all.

"The scale of China's engagement with Africa is many times more than India," Chakraborty said.

She  also pointed out that India's trade with Africa has also been going  down since 2015 despite a dramatic upsurge from 2005. While India's  trade with Africa is over $62 billion, the continent's trade with China,  its largest trading partner, is around $170 billion.

According to Bhatia, however, there is no doubt about India's commitment o developmental support to Africa.

"Now we have to focus on implementation of projects and then only the impact will be felt," he said.

But  Chakraborty is of the opinion that though India's extension of credit  lines to African nations sounds good, the implementation of projects has  a poor record.

"From identification of projects to approval to  disbursal of funds and actual implementation of projects, the story is  very poor," she said.

To a question about Modi's statement at the  BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit in  Johannesburg that India has been extending financial aid to African  nations despite being a developing country itself, Bhaskar said that it  is "factually correct.

"India, despite its domestic challenges  and large-scale poverty, does provide reasonably substantive aid to some  nations, for example, Afghanistan," he said.

"India needs to  increase its funding to Africa in a calibrated manner but the allocation  of fiscal resources by New Delhi for non-vote bank purposes is an  uphill task."

Modi reached Rwanda on July 23 just after Xi left  that East African country and Beijing said that India and China can work  together in Africa.

"As the two largest developing countries and  emerging markets in the world, both China and India are willing to help  Africa within the South-South cooperation framework to accelerate its  industrialization and achieve self-driven development," Chinese Foreign  Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a media briefing in Beijing.

The  comments came after India and China agreed to work jointly on projects  in Afghanistan following the informal meeting between Modi and Xi in  Wuhan in April at the latter's initiative.

According to Bhatia,  this has been China's view for quite sometime and now moreso given the  improving ties between the two Asian giants.

"The Indian government will now have to reflect on this and develop a response," he said.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at aroonim.b@ians.in)

  • Source
  • IANS