India-China Rivalry Heads to Africa

India’s path to democratic growth threatens Chinese interest

China is getting a strong competitor in Africa, as India aims to increase business and development throughout the continent. With tensions between India and China growing more pronounced, the two are likewise bringing fundamentally different offers to African states.

Following the second India-Africa Forum on May 25, India’s intentions are to grow its role in Africa, greatly expanding on the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Framework for Enhanced Cooperation adopted three years ago. It will widen the scope of India-Africa relations to include plansfor economic cooperation, political cooperation, and partnerships in other areas including technology, governance, and media.

However, India’s growing interest in the region poses a threat to China, which maintains its own interest in Africa. India is coming to the continent with more to offer, and at a time of heightening tensions between India and China, this is unlikely to sit well with the Chinese regime.

“India has a lot to offer Africa and I think that both Africans and Indians—in both the public and private sectors—recognize that and are increasingly seizing opportunities for engagement such that China’s position as the preferred alternative to the traditional Western partners is certainly under challenge,” said Dr. J. Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, via e-mail.

Pham added that while the coming competition could benefit Africans, it “certainly will also add another cause for friction to an already delicate relationship between India and China.”

The Chinese regime has not done much to try to hide its attitude toward India. In the spirit of its territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has laid claim to Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast of India, where it maintains a heavy military presence.

A report from Indian-based think tank Institute for Defense Studies & Analyses, states, “While this claimis long standing, China’s aggressive posture in the eastern sector along the McMahon Line or the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has substantially increased in recent years.”

It adds that a plausible explanation for China’s growing aggression there, is that India is strengthening ties with the United States, and “China is extremely wary of this partnership,” as it is perceived as an attempt of containment over the CCP.

What the CCP and India are offering Africa are starkly different. India has more to entice African countries looking to grow stable governments and economies.

On a broader scale, the CCP’s offers tend to attract more repressive countries, with its key partners including Sudan, Libya, and Iran. The CIA described the Chinese regime’s likely motives for this in a partially declassified report from 1992, “China’s Motives for Dealing With States of International Concern.”

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