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India and South Africa: The New Buoyance in Defense Ties
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By Ipshita Bhattacharya

India – South Africa (SA) relations, shares a common colonial history with embedded icons like Gandhi and Mandela. The post-colonial period made India a key driver of antiapartheid movement and instrumental in emboldening the policy of non-align movement. Besides diasporic links, both the countries shares a common significant platform like BRICS. This inextricable link between both the nations have shared areas of convergence and global responsibilities to be shouldered together.

The charged BRIC Nations race to invest in South Africa that states the diverse and promising avenues South Africa holds today. South Africa is considered as the mitochondria of Africa with political and economic stability with abundance of semi and unskilled human resource. Due to its rich natural resources it attracts international exploration companies. The plenteous source of coal, iron, manganese, nickel, uranium etc. makes the country globally viable and worthy for trade and business. The flourishing investment opportunities and unstoppable rhythm gained by SA to grow as a trade leader appeals immensely to Western and Asian countries.

India and China the two Asian competitors are strengthening their footholds in SA in order to get the trade momentum in their favour. China’s assertive trade push in Africa already petite India, however China definitely has an early mover advantage over India.

Looking into the profound geopolitical strategic changes in Asia, India needs to foster a firm and presumptuous defence ties with SA other than trade relations. India also requires to redefine the security environment suitable for the maritime security issues, for which India needs the assistance and political will of other friendly countries like SA. The most important and encouraging part is the declaration of the SA white paper which emphasizes the defence collaborations with its alliances. India has broaden its global objectives with SA in defence ties from maritime security cooperation to anti-piracy operations besides conventional exercises and trainings. A closer security affiliation will surely embolden the diplomatic ties too, which is already on an upward swing.

The growing defence synergy between SA and India in context to Indian Ocean is a south-south political partnership to promote military diplomacy for better research and surveillance. There has been good relations with Indian and SA, navies submarine training programmes and joint drills, several ship visits etc. Since 2008, India and SA is actively involved in IBSA Maritime (IBSAMAR) i.e. India, SA and Brazil near Cape of Good Hope this joint drills included anti-air and anti-submarine warfare seizure operations and anti-piracy drills. In recent years India has extended its military offers for capacity building and trainings enormously. India has increased its nautical operations in western Indian Ocean, with frequent port visits to Africa’s east coast in order to establish a robust maritime diplomacy. India needs to establish its influence throughout the Indian Ocean region through military diplomacy and strategic partnership with SA as key player.  

The strategic location of both the countries however may play a role in the future in determining the significant actions in the region. South Africa has the largest and the most advance military armed force in Southern Africa spending about 80% of the region’s total defence budget. South Africa’s growing involvement in Indian Ocean is a way of introducing herself to the vast possibilities of international connections post-apartheid. As South Africa is a founding member of Indian Ocean Region Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) in 1997. In 1996 Deputy President Thabo Mbeki signed a memorandum of understanding in the field of defence equipment. In the year 1999 it was SA who supplied India with 155 mm gun ammunition in a very short period of notice during the Kargil war. India was also a member country in ‘Operation Blue Crane’ a joint exercise which was conducted by the defence forces of SADC countries (South African Development Community).

In the face of China’s steep heightening influence in the region and her involvement in the Indian Ocean, it becomes extremely imperative for India to grow its naval diplomacy with the willing and friendly nations. China’s maritime Silk Road which could be seen both as an economic opportunity or challenge as Chinese naval military silently but steadily creeping into Indian Ocean. India’s maritime security will be hence best assured by expanding its security focus and establishing a position of influence in the Indian Ocean. To respond to China’s amplifying influence in the Indian Ocean, India needs to engage China both diplomatically and militarily by striking a balance between its alliances with willing countries like SA for naval defence cooperation.  India’s strategic intent towards naval diplomacy and defence cooperation with her strategic defence partners could be clearly seen in the recent International Fleet Review (IFR-2016) and Indo- Africa Forum Summit, which included peace and security as an agenda. The relationship between both these nations is formed by centuries old intersecting history of common struggles and shared aspirations. The growing mutual goodwill, trust and confidence between India and SA emphatically will play a pivotal role in emboldening relations between Asia and Africa in future.  

Ipshita Bhattacharya is a PhD scholar (history). Her research focuses on the critical analysis of India's Defence Policies with US and China in trilateral comparative fashion. The work is a contextual analysis of mainly Defence relations with US and China since post independence of India (1947).

Comments in Chronological order (2 total comments)

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Sat, July 09, 2016 02:14 AM (about 21362 hours ago)
brilliant, congratulations!!
please kindly contact us, since we would like to re-post your brilliant text, we are under Viennaatifimes.org
 
Mon, April 17, 2017 07:27 PM (about 14577 hours ago)
Excellent, Contact us for Indo Europe relation articles. euroasia@gmail.com
 
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