PartnershipsSouth Asia

Multinational AFINDEX-23 highlights Africa-India partnership

FORUM Staff

The second iteration of the Africa-India Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX-23) brought together 25 African nations to train with troops in India over two weeks in late March 2023.

Aimed at building positive military relations and sharing best practices, the exercise promoted humanitarian work to remove landmines and strengthen peacekeeping operations under the United Nations mandate, according to the Indian Ministry of Defence. Indian troops from the Sikh, Maratha and Mahar regiments participated in the drills. (Pictured: AFINDEX-23 training included humanitarian mine action drills for Indian and African Soldiers.)

Soldiers from Africa and India shared mine removal tactics and helped ensure the forces can correctly interpret rules of engagement while undertaking peacekeeping missions, according to the Defense Ministry.

The multinational contingent performed live drills for landmine removal and for planning and coordinating peacekeeping duties, the Indian Army said on its Facebook page.

A Soldier from the Zambia Army’s Corps of Engineers told The Times of India newspaper that she learned landmine detection from Indian troops who use dogs and robots for various combat engineering operations. Soldiers from Uganda and Zimbabwe also praised the training and the reception they received from the Indian Army, according to the newspaper.

“The bonhomie, esprit-de-corps and goodwill generated during the exercise will go a long way in further strengthening the bonds between the armies by enabling understanding of each other’s organisation and methodology of conducting various operations.” India’s Defence Ministry said in a statement. “This exercise is a harbinger for greater cooperation between Indian & African armies in the future.”

On the sidelines, India organized an equipment display to highlight domestically made products and, in the western Indian city of Pune, hosted the inaugural Africa-India Army Chiefs’ Conclave to enhance defense and regional cooperation.

“India has actively supported Africa in its cybersecurity, peacekeeping and anti-terrorism efforts in recent years,” wrote Samir Bhattacharya, a senior research associate with India’s Vivekananda International Foundation, which promotes research and study as a platform for dialogue and conflict resolution. However, India’s defense cooperation with Africa began decades ago, he noted.

Since the U.N.’s 1960 mission to restore stability to the Congo, India has participated in nearly all the U.N. peacekeeping operations on the continent, Bhattacharya wrote. As of 2022, India had more than 4,000 personnel serving in five peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Morocco, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

India also has a long history of sending women, whose participation in peacekeeping has been shown to improve mission effectiveness and advance stability, on U.N. missions to Africa. In 1960, the forces deployed to the Congo included women serving in the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services. In 2007, the nation became the first country to deploy an all-women contingent for U.N. peacekeeping. The Indian Formed Police United served in Liberia for 14 years, providing 24-hour guard duty, conducting night patrols in the capital city of Monrovia and helping build the capacity of the Liberian police.

In all, India has deployed more than 200,000 personnel for at least 49 of the 71 peacekeeping missions established around the world since 1948, making it the fourth-largest contributor of forces, according to the U.N. Their roles have included protecting civilians, supporting peace processes and carrying out tasks such as rehabilitating roads and providing medical and veterinary care.

IMAGE CREDIT: INDIAN ARMY

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