China with a view to showcasing its military prowess had earlier organised a China-Africa Defence and Security Forum in 2018 that involved 50 African nations.
In a bid to match China, India along with 17 African nations (called AFINDEX-19) on Monday commenced a first-ever joint military drill at Aundh Military Station in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Contingents from 17 African Nations – Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe will be part of the military exercise. India will be represented by the Maratha Light Infantry regiment.
“The exercise will focus on exchange of best practices between the participating nations, team building and tactical level operations in conduct of United Nations mandated tasks”, a statement issued by the Indian Army read.
The UN’s mandated tasks include establishment of new missions, setting up of military observer sites during peacekeeping missions, protection of civilians, nuances of standing combat deployment, convoy protection, patrolling aspects, and aspects related to humanitarian mine assistance.
Earlier this year in January, during an Africa Day event at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit organised in the city of Ahmedabad, Henry Oryem Okello the Ugandan Minister of State for International Affairs had sought to nudge India into forging stronger ties with Africa by saying, “Indians had arrived first but ignored a beautiful Africa – the Chinese came subsequently and took it over”.
Besides burgeoning trade and investment relations with African nations, Beijing had also launched the first-ever China-Africa Defence and Security Forum in 2018 to strengthen its military presence in the region. China had already operationalised its first foreign military base in Djibouti in 2017.
During the said China-Africa forum meeting, representatives from over 50 African nations visited multiple sites belonging to the Chinese Army, Navy, and Air Force. The event was considered an attempt to showcase Chinese technical capacities with a view to opening avenues for selling military equipment to African nations.