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India to boost defence and military engagement with African continent

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh speaks while chairing the first India-Africa Defence Ministers Conclave 2020 on the sidelines of DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. Also seen are Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar (L). A PTI Photo

LUCKNOW (PTI): India on Thursday signalled its readiness to significantly ramp up supply of weapons and defence platforms to African countries, a move aimed at enhancing its strategic heft in a region where China has been aggressively expanding its military and economic clout.

In an address at a conclave to deepen Indo-Africa defence cooperation at the DefExpo here, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said India is ready to scale up military supplies to African nations including offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), fast interceptor boats, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), military aircraft, and arms and ammunition.

A declaration was adopted at the end of the India-Africa Defence Ministers' Conclave, touching on key issues such as effectively dealing with threat of terrorism and extremism. It also resolved to boost cooperation on the evolving concept of Indo-Pacific for regional peace and stability.

In the declaration, India and African nations called for decisive action to root out cross-border terrorism, dismantle terrorist safe havens and eliminate financing channels of terror groups.

It also emphasised the need for all countries to ensure that territory under their control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries in any manner.

In his address, Singh asserted that India's development partnership with African nations will be guided by their priorities and capabilities, and it will also focus on combating terrorism, extremism and keeping the cyberspace safe and secure.

The India-Africa Defence Ministers' Conclave was attended by delegates from 38 countries, including 12 defence ministers from the African continent.

"India will continue to intensify and deepen engagement. It will be a partnership guided by your priorities.

"More specifically on the defence cooperation, these include strengthening cooperation and mutual capabilities in combating terrorism and extremism, keeping our cyberspace safe and secure and supporting the UN in advancing and keeping peace," Singh said.

It is for the first time that a conclave to explore defence cooperation with African countries has been organised as part of the DefExpo, India's biennial military exhibition.

Singh said India looked forward to deeper cooperation in a range of areas including through investment, joint ventures in defence production, defence research and development.

"Rapid strides made by the Indian defence industry, both public and private, and defence research and development has opened up new vistas for cooperation to take our engagement to the next level, he said.

India's partnership with Africa has been an open partnership with all the possibilities and avenues for collaboration being offered to the continent, Singh said.

The defence minister also stressed on the importance of safe secure seas which he said was a pre-requisite for development of blue economy in the region.

In the declaration, the countries emphasised the need for stronger international partnership in countering terrorism and violent extremism, including through increased sharing of information and intelligence.

"We call for strengthening the UN counter-terrorism mechanisms and to ensure strict compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions regime on terrorism.

"We urge the international community to envisage the adoption of Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the UNGA. We agree to further enhance cooperation and coordination between Africa and India to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations," the declaration said.

The two sides also stressed that maritime security is a pre-requisite for the development of blue economy.

"We seek to increase our cooperation in securing sea lines of communication, preventing maritime crimes, disaster, piracy, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing through sharing of information and surveillance, it said.

We encourage enhanced cooperation between India and Africa on the evolving concept of Indo-Pacific and welcome the AU's (African Union) vision for peace and security in Africa that coincides with India's vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region, the declaration said.

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