I have got the privilege to be invited as a panelist on the launch of this very important book. Basically, I had to discuss the book with the author the way I usually do in this blog except that, it was interactive, since I had the author in front of me. I reproduced part of my speech and questions in this post.
Chine-Afrique. Whenever I see these cute little names, It scarred the hell out of me! It is never a good thing, especially when Africa’s name is behind. In any case, these days China is Africa’s best friend. In my opinion, It is still too early to categorize this relationship. It can still go wrong. The question we must ask ourselves is simple:
Is China good or bad for Africa? That’s it.
I strongly believe that any other question is irrelevant.The world is fascinated by China, this interest has translated into a lot of books about Chinese politics, economics, culture…But China is not the only country who wants to befriend Africa, India and Brazil have entered the game too. Remember BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, China, India and more recently South Africa.
This is where this book comes in. Exit China, place to India. Well, not quite. But India has been very busy in Africa lately. This author has literally studied the relationship between Africa and India from the pre-independence period to nowadays. A very interesting and important book.
But, first, a word about the author
Alioune Ndiaye was born in Senegal. He now lives in Montreal, Canada. Having graduated in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, and in Applied Foreign Languages (English, Arabic) from Gaston Berger’s University in St. Louis, he is interested in studying the relationship between Africa and the emerging powers and is the author of several articles on the issue.
About the book
The end of the Cold War has resulted in very deep rifts in Indian foreign policy. These focus on a willingness to New Delhi to enhance its stature in the international arena to play a leading role. This ambition is expressed by a gradually opening to the world . First to Asian neighbours through the “Look East policy”, then to the United States, which it will later sign a key agreement with Washington in pursuit of its nuclear program. Opening to Africa where New Delhi, in the wake of Beijing launched a real offensive. This book paints a portrait of the new African policy of India in the four dimensions that comprise namely the politico-diplomatic, energy, economic and geostrategic. The book captures the extent to which the objectives of the African policy of New Delhi is part of this new Indian ambition to play a leading role in a multipolar international order it wants.
Here are the things I really appreciated about this book :
1. Very easy to read for a book of this genre. I really love the book’s structure. In each chapter, the author presents the historical background before getting into the thick of it, which helps the reader put things into context.
2. I command the very important and pertinent research work. Moreover, it is highly relevant and current.
3. The research is very well scattered in the different parts of the book. The author resists the trap to drown the reader into data and statistics on every page of this book.
4. The author has a very good understanding of India’s political situation. Why do I say so? Here is the think, I compare his chapter on geostrategic (part 4 ) to the last report of The Economist March 30th 2013: Can India become a great power? This author emerges victorious from that face-off. And the value added of his book is the Africa factor.
Q&A with the author
I reproduce part of the debate here.
Disclaimer: the author’s section is my own interpretation of his answers to my questions. I do not presume to speak for him.
That being said, over to my questions now:
UTNT: The place of India in the world?
In the book, there is this idea that India has ambitions and wants to take his rightful place of world power. However, India has the same number of diplomats than Singapore, which has a population of 5 millions. Population of India as of 2011 is 1.241 billion. Is India really ready to become a world power, especially when compared to China? It seems that sometimes, they still practice the Nehru’s policy of non-alignment and other times they are decided on what they want, as was the case in the issue of the UN Security Council. What do you think? Can you give us your input.
- The author: The author thinks that India has the potential to be a great power. But unless, China which is already happening, India is still in the process.The diplomatic representation has been increased dramatically by India in the last 10-15 years, especially in African countries ( see diplomatic section of the book). However, there is a great deal more to do to further affirm India’s ambition to be a great power.
UTNT:The Success Story of India
One thing, I was expecting to see but I did not see much, was the success story of India. So the question here is why? The reason I ask this question is that at the end of the book you suggest that Africa should draw into the Indian experience. Why did you chose not to further elaborate on that aspect?
- The author: The author said that he mentioned some of the success factors of the Indian economy in the book on several occasion but he did not do a whole section on it.
UTNT:The significance of the threat “Pakistan”
I also expected to see a lot more about Pakistan in this book. Why? Because I think whatever happens in Islamabad has a huge influence in India. In 2012 – 2013, there were a lot of attempt to reconcile between the two countries. Another reason, why Pakistan is important to India, is its close relationship with China. Now in the geostrategic section of the book, there is this idea that the main threat to India is not Pakistan but China. I think the question of security for a nation like India should come before any question of strategy or ambitions of greatness. It is certain that nobody really knows what China will do to twist the arm of some recalcitrant, now that they have the economic and military power to do so. This also holds for African countries. Why do you think it is China rather than Pakistan that India should be more worried about? Not to forget the question of Kashmir.
- The author: Very Short answer: it is about money and power. China is not comparable to Pakistan neitheir in terms of money or Power. Moreover, since India and Pakistan got their respective nuclear weapons, the threat of a confrontation has somewhat lessened. As explained in the geostrategic section, China and India are in competition for the control of the Indian Ocean. China could block supply going into India, and India could technically do the same to China. (this section is very well detailed in the book). The question of Kashmir is not pertinent to Africa in the great scheme of things. But India should definitely take care of that issue once and for all.
UTNT: Approach India Vs China’s approach: The approach of India in Africa
India’s approach in Africa is an institutional approach, they want to deal mainly with the regional economic communities i.e the AU, EAC, SADC… The Chinese approach is more on a bilateral axis, they would rather deal government to government . Which do you think is the best approach for Africa and why? And how Africa can benefit from the two approaches?
- The author: They are both good approaches.It is not matter of which one is good or bad, it is a matter of benefitting from the two approaches regardless of the country who deliver them. Be it India or China. Africa should beware of the kind of relationship it had had with Europe and America in the past. These projects/partnerships should be win-win situations for all. The leadership of the continent should work towards those goals.
These two questions did not get answered due to time constraint. Maybe one reader would like to take a go at it on the comment box below.
UTNT: The current state of Indian Economy and its impact on Africa
2012 & 2013 were difficult years for India especially at the political and economic level. Several scandals of corruption affected the credibility of Manmohan Singh. No new reforms could be passed at the congress. And the campaign for the next election have already begun. Also, the growth rate has been very disappointing, about 5%, and worst the currency has been depreciating for a while now. If India were to fall into recession or worse were to lose its membership in the club of Emerging economies, How do you think it will impact Africa ?
UTNT: Does Africa lack ideology? Why? Simply because China had Den Xiao Ping, India had Nehru. What do you think?
Anyone? Drop a comment below!
This is a must read if you are interested in the development of Africa. A reminder that I had reviewed a book about China by Dambisa Moyo here Winner take All