New Delhi (Sputnik): The first ever field exercise between the armed forces of India and African countries have been scheduled for March this year. Twelve African nations, including Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, and Uganda will join in the 10-day exercise to be hosted in the Indian city of Pune from March 18.
Announcing the first ever such exercise, the Indian Army on Thursday said that Indian Africa Field Training Exercise will be conducted at Aundh Military Station & College of Military Engineering from 18-27 March 2019.
Indian Africa Field Training Exercise #IAFTX2019 will be conducted at Aundh Military Station & College of Military Engineering from 18-27 Mar 2019. With more than a dozen African countries participating, it aims at #Synergizing humanitarian action & joint #Peace operations. pic.twitter.com/lmrRNSHpkB— ADG PI — INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) January 24, 2019
"With more than a dozen African countries participating, it aims at synergising humanitarian action & joint peace operations", the Indian Army added.
Last week during the Africa Day event at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs), sought to nudge India into forging stronger ties with Africa by saying, "Indians had arrived first but ignored a beautiful Africa — the Chinese came subsequently and took it over".
"We cannot continue talking, lamenting and complaining about the Chinese — you cannot… The governments are stable and there are opportunities. There are 54 countries, and it is there for you for the taking. If you continue complaining and looking back, you will lose the opportunities — the train will leave, you will continue standing on the platform, and the train will not come back", Henry Oryem Okello, Uganda's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (International Affairs) said at the event.
India's total investment in Africa stands at around $40 billion, far less than China's $100 billion. China continues to be Africa's largest trading partner since 2008 with goods worth $170 billion being traded in 2017. Furthermore, with the launch of the first ever China-Africa Defence and Security Forum 2018, Beijing further strengthened its military presence in the region besides operationalising the first-ever military base on foreign soil in Djibouti in 2017.
In March 2018, when the Indian government announced 18 new diplomatic missions in African nations by 2021; the Chinese side had already dispatched military attaches to most of the nations apart from holding joint drills and live-fire military exercises.
During the first-ever China-Africa Defence and Security Forum, representatives from over the 50 African nations visited multiple People's Liberation Army, Navy and Air Force sites which were considered as an attempt to showcase technical capacities of China thereby opening avenues to sell military equipment to African nations.
Meanwhile, Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa has been invited as State Guest of Honour for India's Republic Day parade on 26 January 2019. President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by a high-level delegation including nine ministers, senior officials of his government and a 50-member business delegation.
Last July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first ever visit to Africa —Uganda and Rwanda- and announced a $200 million line of credit for infrastructure projects. An agreement on capacity building in defence, industry, science and technology was also signed during the visit.