This time for Africa

India-Africa engagement is getting stronger with the active involvement of political and business leaders of both sides. This was reflected in deliberations at the annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) recently. The AfDB’s decision to hold its meeting here in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, demonstrated its confidence in recent achievements and future prospects of the Indian economy. It also confirmed Africa’s growing interest in connecting more extensively with India Inc. AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina called India “a developing beacon for the rest of the world”, adding that the time was right for India and Africa to forge “winning partnerships”. This conference came against the backdrop of the historic third India-Africa Forum Summit in October 2015 when all 54 African nations had sent their representatives, 41 of them at the level of head of state or government. African governments have also been appreciative of Indian leaders’ unprecedented readiness to visit Africa. In the past two years, the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister have visited 16 African countries in the east, west, north and south. “After assuming office in 2014, I have made Africa a top priority for India’s foreign and economic policy,” Mr. Modi said at the AfDB meet. What attracted the attention of media, diplomatic and strategic communities was the release by Mr. Modi of a vision document on the “Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)”. This study was jointly produced by three research institutions of India and Japan — Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), New Delhi; the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Jakarta, and the Institute of Developing Economies Japan External Trade Organisation (IDEJETRO), Japan — in consultation with other Asian and African think tanks. It envisages closer engagement between India and Africa for “sustainable and innovative development”, and will be anchored to four pillars: development and cooperation projects; quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity; enhancing capacities and skills; and people-to-people partnership. The AAGC will accord priority to development projects in health and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agro-processing, disaster management, and skill enhancement. It will have special focus on the following geographies: Africa, India and South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Oceania. This study indicates a preference for turning the 21st century into an Asian-African century, and not just an Asian century. The idea of a growth corridor linking Asia and Africa stemmed from discussions between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Mr. Modi in November 2016, in light of talks between the two governments in earlier years. Convinced of the rising importance of the Indo-Pacific region as “the key driver for prosperity of the world”, the two leaders decided “to seek synergy” between India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s “Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure”. This synergy would be reflected in better regional integration, improved connectivity and industrial networks. The strategy encompasses India-Japan collaboration for accelerating development in Africa together with other likeminded countries such as the United States, Germany, France and probably the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. The very mention of the AAGC excited many observers. A few in the media asked experts whether this would be India’s answer to China’s One Belt One Road. The honest answer is in the negative as the approaches of India and China towards Africa are essentially different. China concentrates on infrastructure and cheque-book diplomacy, whereas India promotes a broader spectrum of cooperation projects and programmes focussed on the development of Africa’s human resources. China goes solo, while India is desirous of working with other willing nations to assist Africa as per the latter’s priorities. Besides, while committed to a voluntary partnership with Africa, India is not “prescriptive”, as Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley explained. This enlightened approach offers “limitless possibilities” for India-Africa cooperation. Nevertheless, it should be reckoned that India and Japan do not have the luxury of time in view of China’s rapidly expanding footprint in Africa. An urgent need exists for them to increase the scope of their development projects, create synergy among themselves, engage proactively with other willing partners, and thus turn the concept of the AAGC into a viable reality. The authors of the vision document plan to produce within a year “an AAGC Vision Study” based on a geographical simulation model which will estimate the economic impact of various trade and transportation facilitation measures. The three institutions will then recommend the way forward to deepening the Asia-Africa partnership. If New Delhi and Tokyo are anxious to make a difference, the most important task for them is to immediately initiate a few joint pilot projects involving the companies of India, Japan and a few African countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Mozambique in identified areas such as health care, agriculture and blue economy. Unless results become visible in the short term, questions may arise about the credibility of their joint approach. China’s substantial success needs to be matched by sustained India-Japan cooperation in Africa.

Uncertain times

Afghanistan is no stranger to terror attacks. Even so, the repeated strikes in the most fortified areas with mounting casualties demonstrate a steadily deteriorating security situation. In April, the Taliban had targeted an army base in Mazar-e-Sharif, killing over 100 soldiers. Now, at least 90 people, mostly civilians, have been massacred in a suspected truck bomb blast in Kabul. The Wazir Akbar Khan area where the blast occurred is one of the most secured places in the city, given its proximity to the presidential palace and embassies, including India’s. Still, a terrorist managed to drive in with a vehicle full of explosives and detonate it. It is not immediately clear who is behind the attack. The Taliban have denied any role, saying they don’t kill civilians. Afghanistan’s jihadist landscape has been diversified. There are multiple Taliban splinter groups that do not accept the current leadership of the insurgency. And then there is the Islamic State, which operates from eastern Afghanistan and had targeted civilians in the recent past. Amid all this, the Afghan government is struggling to win a modicum of public confidence that it can turn things around. Since most American troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 2014, terror attacks have been on the rise. Last year was particularly bloody, with over 11,500 people having been killed or injured even as the Afghan government’s writ shrunk to just over half of the country’s 407 districts. The problem has political, diplomatic and security dimensions. Politically, the government is seen to be corrupt, incompetent, and unable to get its act together. Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who faces allegations of sexual abuse, has fled the country. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah are reportedly not on the same page on key issues. Corruption is pervasive across government departments, and Mr. Ghani is yet to begin delivering on his promise to streamline governance. The diplomatic challenge before Mr. Ghani is to cut off the Taliban’s supplies from abroad. It is an open secret that Pakistan is supporting the insurgency. There were reports recently that Iran and Russia may also be arming them for geopolitical reasons. Unless the Taliban are cut off from their external backers, Kabul’s writ will remain circumscribed. The security challenge, perhaps the most important one, is that the Afghan army, after years of relentless war, is demoralised. Though Afghanistan has a 170,000-strong army, the main combat operations are overseen by a small U.S.-trained contingent. They are stretched on the battlefield, given the challenges from different militant groups. The question is, what is Mr. Ghani’s government doing in the face of these challenges? Do its international backers, including the U.S., have any plan to stabilise Afghanistan, and if so, what priority do they accord it? As things stand, the country is at risk of sliding back to the chaos of the 1990s.


1) Deliberations

Meaning: Considering or discussing something.

Example: After much deliberation, he decided to accept their offer.

Synonyms: Thought, Discussion

Antonyms: Disregard

2) Beacon

Meaning: Something that provides illumination.

Example: She was a beacon of hope in troubled times.

Synonyms: Warning fire, Light

3) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never having happened or existed in the past.

Example: Ragavi took the unprecedented step of revealing the truth about the situation.

Synonyms: Unparalleled, Unequalled

Antonyms: Normal, Common

4) Envisages

Meaning: To imagine or expect that something is a likely or desirable possibility in the future.

Example: He envisioned a partnership between business and government.

Synonyms: Foresee, Predict

5) Anchored

Meaning: Provide with a firm basis or foundation.

Example: It is important that policy be anchored to some acceptable theoretical basis.

6) Enhancement

Meaning: To improve the quality, amount, or strength of something.

Example: Smart personnel practices enhance the value of a company and its stock.

Synonyms: Improvement, Intensification

Antonyms: Diminution

7) Stemmed

Meaning: Originate in or be caused by.

Example: Many of the universities’ problems stem from rapid expansion.

Synonyms: Arise from, Originate from

Antonyms: Cause, be independent of

8) Proactively

Meaning: Taking action by causing change and not only reacting to change when it happens.

Example: Companies are going to have to be more proactive about environmental management.

Synonyms: Foresighted, provident

Antonyms: improvident, myopic

9) Simulation

Meaning: The production of a computer model of something, especially for the purpose of study.

Example: The method was tested by computer simulation.

10) Fortified

Meaning: Provide (a place) with defensive works as protection against attack.

Example: the whole town was heavily fortified.

Synonyms: Secure, Protect

Antonyms: Weaken

11) Proximity

Meaning: The state of being near in space or time.

Example: The best thing about the location of the house is its proximity to the town centre.

Synonyms: Nearness, Presence

Antonyms: distance, Remoteness

12) Embassies

Meaning: The group of people who represent their country in a foreign country.

Example: We used to be friendly with some people who worked at the Swedish Embassy.

Synonyms: Envoy, Representative

13) Insurgency

Meaning: An occasion when a group of people attempt to take control of their country by force.

Example: The government is reported to be concerned about the growing insurgency in the south.

Synonyms: Insurrection

Antonyms: Calm, Obedience

14) Shrunk

Meaning: To become smaller, or to make something smaller.

Example: The Company’s profits have shrunk from $5.5 million to $1.25 million.

Synonyms: Get smaller, Contract, Diminish

Antonyms: Expand, Increase

15) Incompetent

Meaning: Not having or showing the necessary skills to do something successfully.

Example: The country’s being governed by a bunch of incompetents.

Synonyms: Inept, Unskilful

Antonyms: Competent, Skilful

16) Pervasive

Meaning: Present or noticeable in every part of a thing or place.

Example: Reforms are being undermined by the all-pervasive corruption in the country.

Synonyms: Present, Prevalent

Antonyms: Rare, Uncommon

17) Contingent

Meaning: A group of people representing an organization or country, or a part of a military force.

Example: A large contingent of voluntary soldiers.

Synonyms: Group, Party

Antonyms: Individual