Role of India In Mali
The disturbance in Northern Mali which sprouted war with the MNLA group protesting for the want of independence of Azawad as a separate state, ultimately resulted into them taking charge of the region and declaring it as an independent state after the ousting of the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure. Since the MNLA were backed by the Islamist groups, on the proclamation of Azawad as an independent state, it became very difficult for MNLA and the Islamist groups to reconcile their conflicting visions regarding their new state. Consequentially it led to a war between the two to which MNLA lost most of the cities to the Islamists . The current situation is such that the constitution of Mali has been suspended and a transitional government headed by President Dioncounda Traore is in place.
Malian episode brings to the fore a conflict between sovereignty and responsibility of the state towards its citizens. A state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities; the international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfil its primary responsibility; if the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures. Presently French armed forces have intervened directly in the conflict, aiding and fronting Malian forces to take on the Islamists on the request of President Dioncounda Traore.
As regards to India, it has always remained neutral in their intervention in foreign domestic affairs. Countries like Korea, Yemen, Iraq, Vietnam and Afghanistan have been witness to this neutralism of India. However in the recent past India has shown its involvement in its decision to assist Mali in its struggle for survival against jihadis and tribal separatists. Such unprecedented change of decisions calls for recollection of the year 1991 when the then prime minister, Chandra shekhar, was asked as to why he refused to participate in Operation Desert Shield to liberate Kuwait from Iraq to which he had replied that a country who could not defend it’s own borders had no business embroiling in other people’s wars. Even though considering the fact that it is 2013 now and the situations are different from that of past, the question still remains what makes India step into the domestic affairs of Mali. Thus through this paper the author intends to explore the various reasons for India participating in the affairs of Mali, the land locked state of Western Africa.
Factors Influencing India’s Intervention In Mali
If we look into the reason as to why India in the case of Mali is seemed to have gone out of their comfort zone and intervened in foreign wars, the answer is unclear. However one can analyze India’s objective in doing so. Here at this point many assumptions could be drawn, which could include the following:
1. India as an emerging player in the world politics.
Currently Mali is under a transitional government with a mission to organise elections in the country. India has promised to be part of the Support and Follow-Up Group (SFG) for Mali at a conference in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the African Union (AU). India has committed to giving $1 million for the upgradation of the Malian army with a pledge to ramp up contribution for reconstruction to $100 million after the situation stabilizes.
The central theme of India’s foreign policy at this point is to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. To this end, we can see that India is trying hard to win the confidence and support of the developing world, which was also noted in March this year when it hosted a summit of the 48 under developed countries in the world. Intervening in Mali affairs is yet another strategy of India to build up its international image which would act in furtherance of its foreign policy goals.
1.1 Importance of African nations to Indian economy
Africa’s importance to India has grown markedly in the last decade. Two-way trade with Africa reached US$46 billion in 2010, and there are plans to increase this further to US$70 billion by 2014. Presently, up to 2 million people make up the Indian diaspora in Africa, which is a sign from the British colonial era. The driving force behind India’s interest in Africa lies primarily in energy security, food security, the search for new markets, and strategic influence. Indian energy companies have significant operations in Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, and more recently, India has set up embassies in Niger and Malawi to examine possibilities for mining uranium.
To facilitate its interests in Africa, the India-Africa Forum was set up in 2008, and in June it held its second summit in Ethiopia. Pledges were made to provide US$5 billion in credit to African nations, including US$700 million for new institutions and training programmes. As a consequence of India’s rise, South Africa and India, whose bilateral trade has increased from US$4 billion in 2005-2006, to nearly US$12 billion in 2010, have shown serious interest in developing strategic ties.
1.1.1 Significance of Mali as an African nation
Before the insurgency took place in Mali, the government of Mali had been keen to undertake exploration and exploitation of their mineral resources and has formally offered rights on lease to the Government of India providing Indian companies as well as private companies with ample opportunities to exploit the rich mineral resources of Mali. Mali is also suspected to be home to 14 million tropical diseases, which could therefore form a good market for generic medicines, pharmaceutical products and veterinary medicines that could be exported from India to Mali. This all could only be possible if the Malian government is brought back to power and the rebel forces are driven away. Thus India’s experiment on Mali should have a productive and positive effect so that Africa could welcome India with huge opportunities.
2. India’s antipathy towards globalisation of terror
India is showing its resentment towards the terrorists forces which has been a threat to the country in the current years. If we dig deeper into the facts and history of India, it has been one of the countries worst affected by the terrorists groups which are currently operating its forces in the conflict of Mali. This departure of Indian policy makers from its established policy of non-interference is one proof of the implications of globalisation of terror. However the episode of Islamist groups , consisting of Al Quieda and Ansar Dine, trying to impose Islamic fundamentalism in most parts of Mali, attracted the Indian policy makers attention and led to their change of decisions to stand for opposing such fundamentalism. India has strong evidence that the terrorists operating in Mali are coming from the Afghan - Pak region, and in the view of the recent terrorists attacks in India, the country is strongly committed to fight terrorism in all forms.
Not only India but China too extended strong support to the operation Serval. According to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, the rebels “vowed to impose an extremist version of Muslim Shariat law throughout Mali.” Just as Africa can’t escape the clash of civilizations that the American scholar, Samuel P. Huntington had predicted, India, too, cannot escape the obligation to resist the global advance of fundamentalist forces.
If Bamako (Official capital of Mali) falls in the hands of Rebels then it would be like a repeat of the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan in 1996. If the extremists take the capital, it’s game is over. The whole region will become safe-haven for terrorists, drug traffickers, hostage takers (like recall Kandahar episode). This will further destabilize neighboring countries of Niger and Mauritania. Therefore, international community must prevent Mali from turning into “the Afghanistan of Africa”.
3. Indian International image as a peace loving nation
Some scholars are of the opinion that, the case of Mali is the outcome of request and pressure. “Our expertise, ability, and exposure are the rationale behind the pressure. We interfere with good intentions and solid reasons. It is not to undermine ones sovereignty, but to strengthen it.” On the event of the president being ousted by the coup d’teat in Mali, India responded with its expression of “deep concern” and called “for respect of the constitutional order and democratic process.” Such message explains the fact that India itself being a democratic nation encourages democracy and maintaining sovereignty of any nation. They are of the view that the intervention of India rests totally on humanitarian grounds and is an act of necessity since timely intervention is necessary to prevent the spill over of the menace to its adjacent areas. Since India has an experience over such problems, it can have an upper hand in solving such problems in the region of Mali which is affected by poverty, underdevelopment and religious fundamentalism.
There is no doubt that India has now entered the arena of world politics and is trying to establish its image there. Reflection of its rising international profile is seen as India being an influential participant in a number of regional forums. Not only were this, in 2008 two forums namely Ocean Naval Symposium and India Africa Forum founded by India which served to extend India’s influence throughout the Indian Ocean region. India has also signed defence cooperation agreements and a number of bilateral naval access agreements, including joint training/military exercises, with countries on the Indian Ocean coasts.
In conclusion, it is clear that India’s modern foreign policy is evolving to meet the variety of challenges and aspirations that continue to dominate its national agenda. This can be seen in this western state of Africa where India is providing assistance to rebuild the Malian army and its democratic structure. Furthermore, to achieve its great power aspirations India is also seeking to encourage countries throughout the world to support its bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, by using soft power to enhance its relations with countries throughout the world. The above cited agreements also show India’s active involvement in bilateral and multilateral forums which are of regional and global significance. This would suggest that India’s foreign policy has been designed to provide it with greater options and flexibility, both nationally to deal with internal challenges and internationally to enhance its regional and global influence.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org