India will work with Africa to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday and asserted that the two sides must work together to ensure that the second largest continent does not again turn into a "theatre of rival ambitions".
Swaraj said the two sides will work together for a "just, representative and democratic" global order that has a voice and a role for one-third of humanity that lives in Africa and India.
India's own quest for reforms in global institutions is incomplete without an equal place for Africa, she said.
"We will work with Africa to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations. India's vision of Indian Ocean Security is cooperative and inclusive, rooted in security and growth for all in the region. We must all work together to ensure that Africa does not once again turn into a theatre of rival ambitions, but becomes a nursery for the aspirations of Africa's youth," Swaraj said.
The Indian Ocean has been witnessing a growing presence of China. The African continent too has been witnessing increasing presence of Beijing.
Swaraj was speaking at the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of External Affairs and Telecommunications Consultants India (TCIL), a government-owned enterprise, for the e-VBAB Network Project.
The project, which is in its second phase, focuses on pan-Africa tele-education (e-Vidyabharati) and tele-medicine (e-Arogyabharati) facilities. The first phase had begun in 2009.
Communications Minister Manoj Sinha and envoys of several African nations were present at the event.
Swaraj said the government has put Africa at the top of India's foreign policy priorities and this has been reflected in actions.
"In the last four years there have been 26 visits to African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister, apart from several ministerial visits. It has been decided to significantly enhance our diplomatic presence in Africa with the opening of 18 new resident missions over the coming four years," she said.
The external affairs minister noted that the bridge for shared security has been built over the decades by Indian peacekeepers in Africa and, more recently, through cooperation in maritime security and counter-terrorism.
T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the development partnership between India and Africa includes implementation of 180 lines of credit worth USD 11 billion to 40 African countries.
He said trade with Africa is valued at USD 62 billion, a 21 per cent increase over the previous year.
Alem Tsehaye Woldemariam, the Ambassador of the Republic of Eritrea and the Dean of African Missions in India, cited the India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) organised by the MEA here in 2015 to say that the Indo-Africa partnership has seen a renewed momentum over the last few years.
African countries were represented at the highest level at the IAFS 2015 and it was a "watershed moment" in the Indo-African ties, he said.