India Moves To Compete With China in Africa

3rd India-Africa Forum Summit.

3rd India-Africa Forum Summit.

“Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks during the India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD), held on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 here in Gujarat, are being seen as a counter to China’s growing influence in Africa.”

India has taken various steps to counter China since a series of border clashes took place along the Line of Actual Control in 2017 and 2020.[i] While most of these initiatives involved developing operational and tactical capabilities in the Indian Army, the Indian government has also taken a few strategic-level measures to strengthen its position in the Indo-Pacific region against China.[ii] However, a new playing field for Indian and Chinese competition is showing itself: the accompanying excerpted articles report on recent Indian efforts to sell weapon systems to governments in Africa, offering insights into Indian efforts to counter China at the strategic level.

The excerpted article from India’s independent think-tank Center for Land Warfare Studies examines Chinese exports of weapons in Africa. The author notes how China has been increasing arms exports to the Middle East and North Africa in recent years and that this has been taking place alongside the use of ports in the region. The author also points out how China is in a position to continue sales of weapons in Africa as the war in Ukraine could reduce Russia’s share of the arms market in the region. While India’s defense industry has yet to export significant numbers of weapon systems in the way that China can, a second article provides insight into Indian plans to change this status quo.

This excerpted article from India’s independent English-language news website, The Print, reports on the India-Africa Defense Dialogue, held in October in India alongside the most recent iteration of the country’s defense exposition. The article states that a number of participants from Africa attended and that India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh wanted to explore new areas of security cooperation between India and African states, “including capacity-building, training, cybersecurity, maritime security, and counter-terrorism.” Singh also stated that India and Africa are “important stakeholders in ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment, especially in the Indian Ocean region.” He further commented that India will partner with any African country on the “basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect.” Lastly, the article references an extensive list of weapons that might be of interest to African militaries, which could give India another opportunity to counter China if New Delhi is able to supply these systems as part of a different partnership than Beijing offers. 


Dr. Manjari Singh, “China’s Increasing Arms Supply to the Middle East and Beyond: Another Dimension to the New Silk Road?,” Center for Land Warfare Studies (independent think-tank in India), 28 October 2022, No. 367.

China has been expanding its arms export beyond Asia and for the last half a decade, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have become its favourite destinations. From the region’s side, China is emerging as the second-best choice for arms imports after the US. Furthermore, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has added a new dimension to the existing global arms industry with an anticipated boost to China’s overall arms diplomacy particularly in the Middle East…

China has been exporting armed drones to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan since 2020…This change in position is also reflective of the East Asian economy’s

increasing weapon’s platform outreach—from 40 countries to 53, over a span of one decade from 2010 to 2019…

It is noteworthy that between 2015 and 2022, China has leased ownership of as many as

10 ports. Apart from these ports, China has been building seven more ports which are strategically significant, and serves as economic and political outposts for its expansionist approach. The Karachi Deepwater Port in Pakistan, Sokhna port in Egypt, CICT Terminal in Sri Lanka, Chittagong and Payra Ports in Bangladesh, CSP Terminal, Khalifa Port in the UAE, Sudan Port, Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam Ports in Tanzania, and Lamu & Mombasa ports in Kenya, are some of the other ports developed by Chinese firms…

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is likely to dent Russian economy and the former’s aggression will presumably lead to its diplomatic isolation, both of which are likely to provide a favourable environment to Chinese arms market. Additionally, maritime connectivity and building of Chinese ports in the Western Indian Ocean will further facilitate China’s arms sale…

Snehesh Alex Philip, “To counter China’s influence, India seeks to boost defence cooperation with African countries,” The Print (independent English-language news website from India), 18 October 2022.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s remarks during the India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD), held on the sidelines of DefExpo 2022 here in Gujarat, are being seen as a counter to China’s growing influence in Africa.

Fifty African countries participated in the India-Africa Defence Dialogue initiated during the last DefExpo held in Lucknow in 2020. Among the attendees were defence ministers of 20 African countries…

During his address Tuesday, the Defence Minister stressed the need to explore new areas of convergence for defence engagements between India and Africa, including capacity-building, training, cybersecurity, maritime security and counterterrorism. He added that India and African countries are important stakeholders in ensuring a safe and secure maritime environment, especially in the Indian Ocean region.

“We do not believe in making or becoming a client or satellite state, and so, when we partner with any country, it is on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect…” he said.

Sources in the defence establishment also said equipment of interest to Africa includes light combat helicopters, patrol vessels, small arms, shoulder-fired rockets, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers, and surveillance drones, among others…


[i] For more background on the clashes, see: Christopher Clary and Vipin Narang, “India’s Pangong Pickle: New Delhi’s Options After Its Clash with China,” War on the Rocks, 2 July 2022.

[ii] The government of India increased its security cooperation with Vietnam in 2022 as one strategic-level measure to counter China. For more see: Matthew Stein, “India Strengthens Security Cooperation with Vietnam,” OE Watch, Issue #8, 2022.

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