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Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise AFINDEX: India’s outreach to Africa, to counter China

Huma Siddiqui

With China deepening its presence in the African continent, Indian Army and 17 African nations had the inaugural edition of Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX-19), aimed at synergizing humanitarian action and joint peace operations. The 17 African nations are Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia and observers from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

At the initial planning conference for the exercise last December, it was stated by the planners that the exercise is a positive step towards growing political and military ties with the member nations of the African continent and is expected to boost the strategic cooperation between the countries.

This joint field training exercise from March 18 to March 27 with African nations (AFINDEX-2019) in planning & conducting humanitarian mine assistance (HMA) & peacekeeping operations (PKO) has been described under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The military and defence cooperation with African countries has been growing.

The exercise was divided into three phases: the first phase included the ‘Training of the trainers’ from the participating nations; the second phase involved detailed training of the entire contingent of around 180 trainees on various aspects of the HMA training. It was structured around the five pillars of mine action–Mine Risk Education (MRE), de-mining including manual, mechanical and dog assisted demining techniques, victim assistance, use of anti-personnel mines including a total ban and stockpile destruction.

And the final phase of training involved practicing the drills on the ground by the contingents under the instructors from the College of Military Engineering (CME), as part of the validation exercise.

On the sidelines of AFINDEX 2019, Indian companies under the umbrella of FICCI and Army Design Bureau (ADB) and Indian Army show cased indigenously manufactured defence equipment which can be exported to friendly nations. It was inaugurated by the Chief of Army Staff Gen

As has been reported India, has streamlined its export regulations and licensing policies in an effort to create avenues for defence exports to join the exclusive club of defence exporting countries. Undoubtedly, Africa is one of the potential defence export markets for India as it is a price sensitive region.

The companies showcased capabilities on Small Arms and Munitions; Surveillance and Security Management Equipment; Communication Equipment; Body Protection Armour; Light and Heavy Vehicles; Bullet Proof and IED Protected Vehicle; Simulators; IED Detection Equipment; System Engineering; Counter Terrorism related equipment and Prosthetics & Artificial Limbs.

According to the United Nations, as of February 2019, India was the fourth largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world, contributing some 6,453 personnel. Many of the African states participating in AFINDEX-19 are also major contributors, including Egypt, Niger, Ghana, and Uganda.

There have been military to military exchange and high level visits between both sides. Last December

Indian Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had visited Kenya and Tanzania to lay the groundwork for growing military-to-military cooperation between India and two major African states. It may also be noted that defence exchanges have been going on with South Africa alongside Brazil under the BRICS grouping of five emerging powers, along with Russia and China South Africa and also has had India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime (IBSAMAR) naval exercises.