21 September, 2020

Continental Drift

Africa figures more in the Chinese consciousness than ours. Are we losing out?

Continental Drift
As the media debates whether or not Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has granted needless concessions to China, Beijing seems to have decisively wrested initiative from India thousands of miles away, in another continent: Africa. And it is the country's political masters who are to blame, oblivious of the need to frame a coherent, focused Africa policy.

This is best illustrated through an anecdote a senior Indian diplomat narrates. About 18 months ago, India was competing for a UN post. Among the UN electorate was a sub-Saharan African country whose support the government wanted. When the Indian ambassador called upon the African country's foreign minister to canvass support, the latter remarked, "I have not seen you for years. You land up only when you need help." Take another example: when Shashank, secretary (Europe, Africa, America), travelled to the Ivory Coast and Guinea this May, it was the first "high-level" visit to these places in seven years. "There are many other countries in Africa where there have been no visits for years," says a senior diplomat.



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