India has underlined its commitment to supporting African countries “as per African priorities and without conditionalities”, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday, stressing that the full respect for national ownership can never be over-emphasised.
India welcomes the evolution and rise of Africa as a key factor in the contemporary world, he said while speaking at the UN Security Council Open Debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Challenges of maintaining peace and security in fragile contexts.”
“We are committed to supporting African countries in this endeavour, as per African priorities and without conditionalities,” Mr Shringla said.
India will continue to support Africa’s aspirations and work towards empowering it for a future that is founded on the principles of inclusivity, sustainability, transparency and socio-economic development with dignity and respect, he said.
Shringla said that this is in keeping with the “Ten Guiding Principles of India”s engagement with Africa”, as enunciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to Parliament of Uganda in July 2018.
He underscored that full respect for national ownership can never be over-emphasised.
“We should recognise the primacy of national governments and national ownership in identifying and driving priorities, strategies and activities for sustaining peace,” he said.
Mr Shringla told the Council that the regional impact of fragility is often underestimated.
“Fragile states have a direct negative spill over effect on neighbouring states, including that of refugee flows, safe havens for terrorists, organised crime, epidemics, weapons trafficking among others. Climate change, water scarcity and resource wars are adding new dimensions to the existing complexity,” he said.
India also stressed that there is a strong correlation of the state’s fragility with poverty; terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism; pandemics; or the predations of regional powers and international actors.
Mr Shringla highlighted that the international community must not fail to acknowledge that the legacy of colonialism constitutes the foundational basis of the current instabilities that plague the African continent.
He cautioned that “we should not paint all fragility issues with the same brush. We are primarily concerned with situations directly affecting the maintenance of international peace and security.”
Noting that while democracy is “undoubtedly” gaining ground in Africa, especially through peaceful transfers of power, Shringla pointed out that African countries, particularly in the Sahel, Central Africa and the Horn of Africa continue to face complex challenges.
“The principal driving factors are chronic political instability; weak governance structures; institutional weaknesses; ethnic divisions; and the presence of terrorist and armed groups,” he said, adding that over-exploitation of diminishing resources, mainly in the Lake Chad basin and Great Lakes region, are also exacerbating the problem.
He voiced concern that the Libyan conflict and resulting instability continue to have a negative impact on its neighbours and that the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse in some countries.
Voicing concern that Africa today is facing serious challenges posed by the growth of terrorism, particularly in the Sahel and Horn of Africa, Mr Shringla said initiatives such as AMISOM, G-5 Sahel Joint Force and Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) need more robust support from the Security Council and the international community.
He also stressed that the Security Council needs to introspect that while more than half of the country issues on the Council’s agenda pertain to Africa, the African continent does not even have a single voice amongst the permanent membership to defend its own interests.
“We need to correct this historical anomaly, and collectively support the Ezulwini consensus,” he said.
Reflecting on fragile situations, particularly in the African continent, Mr Shringla pointed out that the Security Council should remain respectful of the regional approach adopted by countries, in collaboration with regional organisations to address common challenges.
The collaboration between the UN and the African Union and sub-regional organisations has yielded positive results, he said.
There is need to ensure that the UN and its presence on the ground, its Peacekeeping Operations and Special Political Missions, are sufficiently mandated and resourced to implement a comprehensive understanding of peace and security, he said.
“Having contributed significantly to UN peacekeeping in Africa for six decades, we have seen how peacekeeping missions are struggling to implement ambitious mandates. Peacekeeping missions should have a clear and well thought out exit strategy,” Shringla said.
Highlighting India’s strong development partnership with Africa, Mr Shringla said New Delhi has reached out to 43 African countries; executed 189 developmental projects in 37 African countries; and around 77 projects are under execution with a total outlay of 12.86 billion dollars.
India supplied critical medicines to several countries in Africa to help them fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to the call of Secretary General Antonio Guterres, India has upgraded its peacekeeping hospitals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan during the peak of the pandemic.