India’s army is expected to participate in military training exercises in March with a few African countries including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania, various news outlets reported Wednesday, as regional rival China expands its military footprint across the continent.
Last month, India’s defense industry revealed that the drill, dubbed the India-Africa Field Training Exercise (IAFTX), would be held between March 18 and 27 in western India’s Pune region. The exercises are intended to boost military cooperation with African countries.
“Though Indian armed forces do train some military personnel from a few African nations, the IAFTX will be the first-ever such exercise with several armies from Africa. The initial planning conference for IAFTX was held a few days ago, with the final one slated for end-January,” a source from the New Delhi-based defense ministry told Times of India (TOI) in December.
The training is supposed to cover de-mining and peacekeeping operations, amongst other things.
So far, India has only held military drills with one country on the continent, South Africa.
“India has not conducted any bilateral or multi-lateral exercise with other African nations like IAFTX despite long-standing ties with them,” the source told TOI.
India reportedly began planning the exercise last month.
Times of India reported:
The drill will be a part of India’s developing defense ties with Africa, and Army chief General Bipin Rawat will also visit Kenya and Tanzania between December 17 and 20. India and African nations have been working closely to strengthen military ties, and New Delhi has been holding talks with Zambia, Egypt, Botswana, Mozambique, Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and Rwanda, TOI reported.
India already maintains close ties with some of the African countries participating in the drill, namely South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya.
China denies the allegations, claiming it is only in Africa to help with the development of the continent.
Some analysts have accused China of using its deepening economic interests across the continent as a cover to expand its security footprint in Africa.
China often provides troops for the United Nations peacekeeping mission to protect the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who have moved to Africa to work on Beijing-funded projects. However, the Asian giant does not shy away from taking direct military action in Africa and has captured Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.
The U.S. Pacific Command warned that the Chinese armed forces may soon challenge America’s military dominance in the Indo-Pacific region “across almost all domains.”
In 2017, China opened its first overseas logistics and military base in the Horn of African country Djibouti, which also houses military facilities for other countries, including the United States due to its strategic location.
Tensions between regional rivals China and India have appeared to thaw in recent months.
India engaged in military drills with China last month to improve capabilities in combating terrorism and promote mutual understanding.
The exercise came a year after the 73-day standoff between the nations along the Doklam plateau located close the India-China border.