Jaishankar made these remarks at the launch of Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia’s book “India-Africa Relations: Changing Horizons”.
“The era of Western imperialism strengthened the contacts, sometimes in a paradoxical fashion. Indian labour was brought to Africa to work in colonial infrastructure projects and commercial ventures. It certainly led to greater cultural inter-penetration, but it also eventually created a modern Indian Diaspora in Africa,” he said.
The minister recalled how the shared experiences of oppression between India and Africa generated a common desire for freedom and independence. “We in India can never forget that our freedom struggle owes so much to the campaigns that Mahatma Gandhi first practised in Africa and then brought back to his own country.”
The external affairs minister noted that this shared bonding of fighting against colonialism is a deeply emotional one, very difficult to explain to those who have not gone through it.
“It explains the solidarity that we intuitively express at global platforms, whether it was the issue of African independence itself, the battle against apartheid, the continuing debate on fair and just development, or more recently, the inequities of the pandemic response,” he said.
He said it is also a reason why, even when India’s own resources and capabilities were much more meagre, it embarked on a development partnership with Africa.
Speaking on the current state of ties between India-Africa, Jaishankar said a steadily developing relationship between the two was rapidly taken to a much higher level once Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the helm of affairs in India in 2014.
He said the contemporary Indian thinking on ties with Africa was spelt out by Ambassador Bhatia’s address to the Ugandan Parliament in July 2018. He had emphasised that India would respond to Africa’s priorities, to Africa’s demands and needs, rather than bring a unilateral agenda, Jaishankar said.
“We understand that Africa wants multiple options to get the best out of the international order and will endeavour to provide that credibly. To that end, we are also open to working with third countries,” the minister added.
This event was organized by Indian Council for World Affairs to help spotlight India-Africa ties.