New Delhi — The Indian Army will hold a nine-day mega military exercise with militaries of over 20 African countries from March 21 in Pune with an aim to significantly boost overall cooperation, amid China’s persistent efforts to expand its strategic influence in the continent.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Manoj Pande will also host an ‘India-Africa Chiefs Conclave’ on March 28, a day before the military exercise comes to an end, and an exhibition of indigenously-developed military platforms will be organised on March 29 by the Indian industry to showcase the country’s defence manufacturing capabilities to the visiting delegates, senior Army officials said on Friday.
They said new generation equipment manufactured in India will be showcased at the exercise to give a feel of their efficacy to the troops of the participating nations.
“The first India-Africa Chiefs Conclave will be a landmark event and it will provide a fillip to the cooperation between the Indian Army and the armies of African nations,” an official said.
Army chiefs of 10 African countries have confirmed their participation at the conclave while military heads of 12 nations will send their representatives, the officials said. The army chiefs of Congo, Niger, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Uganda, Seychelles, Gambia, Tanzania and Kenya are attending the conclave.
The officials said 22 countries have confirmed their participation at the military exercise out of which nine of them will send their personnel while the remaining ones will be represented by their observers. The nine countries will send a total of 78 personnel, they said.
The countries which are sending their personnel are Ethiopia (5), Ghana (10), Kenya (5), Lesotho (10), Niger (12), Seychelles (10), Tanzania (6), Uganda (10), and Zambia (10) The officials said India has also decided to increase the number of courses for African nations to 450 from the current year which would be almost double compared to last year.
The courses include various skill-building modules and tailor-made capsules decided according to requirement. The military exercise involving the countries in the African continent will be the second such military game being hosted by India. The first Africa-India field training exercise was held in Pune in March 2019.
In the last few years, India has been focusing on ramping up the overall defence and strategic ties with the African continent, amid China’s growing attempts to expand its influence over the countries.
The officials said the AFINDEX exercise will begin on March 21 and will continue till March 29. They said the exercise will be divided into four phases. Initially, the participating personnel will be trained and it will be followed by a ‘Humanitarian Mine Action’ and a peacekeeping operations phase.
Finally, a validation exercise will be conducted to assess the results of the training conducted. The validation exercise will be conducted on March 29 and it will be witnessed by the chiefs of the African armies.
The India-Africa Chiefs Conclave will take place over two sessions. The first session will explore the key pillars of the India-Africa defence partnership while the second session will focus on the Indian defence industry’s Outreach to Africa, the officials said. Eminent speakers from Africa will form part of the panel discussions.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is also scheduled to attend the conclave and deliver an address. The officials said the number of participating countries at the exercise as well as the number of chiefs attending the conclave may go up. Invites were sent to 54 African countries to attend the exercise, they said.