Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday invited the African countries to explore Indian defence equipment and technologies to fulfil their security needs at the first ‘India-Africa Army Chiefs Conclave’ organised on the sidelines of the second Africa-India Joint Exercise’ AFINDEX’ in Pune. Focusing on India’s outreach to Africa, the Conclave hosted by the Indian Army was attended by Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pande and Chiefs and representatives of 31 African nations.
Addressing the Army Chiefs Conclave the Defence Minister said, “India has emerged as a leading defence exporter in recent years. A defence manufacturing ecosystem has been created here, which has the advantage of abundant technical manpower. The Indian defence industry can work with you to fulfil your defence requirements. With the aim to empower our African friends to indigenously meet their defence requirements, we are also committed to sharing our expertise and knowledge in defence manufacturing, research and development”.
The Defence Minister added that the 10-day Joint Exercises between India and African nations provide an excellent opportunity for the Armed Forces to learn from each other and promote interoperability. He termed ‘AFINDEX’ a reflection of India’s continued focus on African nations to develop capacities and enhance mutual capabilities.
It is the first time the Army Chiefs of the African nations have been invited to the Conclave to promote the idea of Africa-India Militaries for Regional Unity (AMRUT), which has a strategic significance considering China’s increasing footprints and strategic inroads in African countries over the last few years. Also, India has deployed its troops in African countries for peacekeeping operations under the UN mandate.
Delivering the keynote address, the Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande said, “Indian defence industry will contribute towards building the capacity of African nations’ defence industries as it also creates opportunities for Indian companies to expand their reach in the region”.
“Collaborative approach in the defence manufacturing will be a win-win situation for India-Africa cooperation. Today we shall deliberate on the key pillars of the India-Africa defence partnership and the Indian defence industry’s potential to contribute to regional security,” he added.
As many as 31 African countries’ militaries are being represented by their contingents or teams of observers in the exercise. 10 African Army Chiefs and 21 representatives of Chiefs from respective countries participated in the Conclave. The event is so organized as to incorporate the current dynamics of the UN Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF) through practical and comprehensive discussions and tactical exercises.
The Conclave includes talks by military and Indian defence industry experts on the India-Africa Defence partnership, the Indian defence industry’s potential and contribution towards regional security.
“India-Africa Army Chiefs dialogue will establish a new era where we can have ‘South-to-South’ cooperation instead of always depending on the North to provide technology and equipment to us. South-to-south cooperation will be far more befitting and far more productive. I am here to assure you that any support we can provide from the Indian industry, we are here to serve”, observed SP Shukla, President , Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), during his presentation at the event.
Representing FICCI, the Head of L&T Defence, Arun Ramchandani, said “we can supply military platforms and customised defence equipment, very cost-effective solutions, we can enable the customer and meet the aspirations by giving specially engineered solutions. We are open to the co-development and co-production model of working together, and we can modernise various legacy equipment.”
An exhibition of indigenously developed military platforms will also be organised on 29 March to showcase the country’s defence manufacturing capabilities to the visiting delegates and to facilitate interaction with Indian defence industries.