In recent years, India has emerged as a leading defence exporter and may fulfill Africa's maritime, aerospace and defence requirements, with Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles becoming the major buyers of Indian arms during 2017-2021, said a report by India Exim Bank.
The report, titled ‘Reinvigorating India’s Economic Engagements with Southern Africa’, was released on 1 November at the inauguration of the CII-Exim Bank Regional Conclave on India-Southern Africa Growth Partnership in Johannesburg.
The report suggested a shift from India’s current approach to India's defence and security cooperation with Africa and other developing countries, which remains need-based and focuses on empowering through training, capacity building, and humanitarian assistance.
“Increased cooperation in areas of aerospace, defence, maritime equipment and vessels can ensure security and enhance technological capacity of Africa and at the same time accelerate India's defence export target of achieving USD 5 billion by 2025," the report said.
“Indian military vehicle manufacturers such as Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland are already part of the network. Going forward, indigenously developed new age technologies in the maritime segment, including unmanned underwater systems, unmanned aerial systems and drones could also be exported to Africa," the report highlighted.
The report highlighted that India and African countries are important stakeholders in ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment in the Indian Ocean Region, especially among the nine Indian Ocean littoral countries (IOLC) in Africa.
These are Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania.
“As a major shipping link for India, the Indian Ocean remains the common factor for these countries and is pivotal in terms of both security and commerce for India and Africa. India and Africa share a robust maritime partnership, which is based on the cooperative framework of 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region)," it said as it highlighted some of the work done already.
“Ministry of Defence has been strengthening cooperation within the framework of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to undertake specific projects and has formalised frameworks of defence cooperation with South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Madagascar," it said, listing some figures.
According to the report, within Africa, Mauritius accounted for 6.6 per cent of India's arms exports during 2017-2021, followed by Mozambique (five per cent) and Seychelles (2.3 per cent).
The report also cited cyber security as another potential area for cooperation.
“With exponential growth in mobile smart device ownership and increased use of social media, Africa's adoption of new technologies is expanding. India has advanced cyber security infrastructure, a dedicated National Cyber Security and a functional nodal agency, Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY)," the report mentioned as institutions which could play a role.
The report, quoting the SIPRI International Arms Transfer Database, said India was the 23rd largest defence exporter during the period 2017 to 2021.