Abstract: India’s foreign policy initiatives and strategy in North Africa has so far remained an under-researched topic. This paper maps out India’s engagement with the five North African nations: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, taking a chronological and thematic approach. At the same time, it provides an understanding of China’s engagement in the region, facilitating a comparative study of the two nations’ activities in the region and how their respective relations with North Africa have developed.
India’s engagement with the African continent has increasingly deepened in recent decades. While research has so far mostly focused on India’s ties with other parts of Africa,[i] its relations with North Africa (referring to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria) are also gaining momentum and merit a more detailed examination. This paper, therefore, looks at India’s engagement in North Africa by drawing on various primary and secondary sources.
It begins by providing an understanding of where North Africa stands in India’s foreign policy ambitions given its strategic location at the cross-section of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The paper then explains India’s standing in North Africa by taking a chronological and thematic approach to its engagement. Due to China’s importance in North Africa, it also provides a comparative perspective on India and China’s activities in the region, acting as a segue to explain how India is perceived in the region before concluding the paper.
Primarily, this paper argues that there is much potential for India and North African relations to expand in the backdrop of a post-pandemic world. This potential lies in different domains such as increasing tourism and business while also helping mitigate the effects of climate change. They can also be facilitated with the help of European countries and other nations invested in seeing North Africa succeed. This paper is meant to be a reference point for stakeholders interested in understanding India – North Africa dynamics.
Locating North Africa in India’s Foreign Policy Outlook
North Africa is geographically far from India compared to regions such as South Asia, West Asia/Middle East, and Central Asia. Nevertheless, the region and the countries contain immense potential for India, not just because of their individual appeal, but due to their linkages with the other three regions.
First, Egypt, the region’s easternmost country, is intimately connected to the politics of West Asia/Middle East. Traditionally, it has been a power broker in the Middle East over the last century and while its position of power has diminished over the last few decades, it has reassumed some more importance recently given its alignment with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which were all part of the coalition that sanctioned Qatar in 2017. Moreover, it has also involved itself in Libya by supporting the military general Khalifa Haftar against the UN-backed government. Lastly, its geographical proximity to Israel placed it in a central role in the Abraham accords of 2021 that led to the normalization of relations between Israel and some Arab nations.[ii]