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Asia-Africa Growth Corridor: Strategic Significance

Asia-Africa Growth Corridor

India launched a vision document for Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) on 25 May 2017 at the African Development Bank meeting in Gujarat.The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor or AAGC is an economic cooperation agreement between the governments of India and Japan.Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shinjo Abe first conceived the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor during their last summit in Tokyo in November 2016.

The vision document  of the AAGC has been developed based on consultations from the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS),New Delhi, the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia(ERIA), Jakarta, and Institute of Developing Economies (IDE-JETRO), Tokyo, along with Asian and African think-tanks. It aims for Indo-Japanese collaboration to develop quality infrastructure in Africa, complemented by digital connectivity, which would undertake the realization of the idea of creating free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

Priority to health, agriculture and disaster management

 The AAGC will give priority to development projects in health and pharmaceuticals, agriculture and agro-processing, disaster management and skill enhancement. The connectivity aspects of the AAGC will be supplemented with quality infrastructure.

Essentially a sea corridor

Unlike OBOR which entails development of a land corridor, AAGC will essentially be a sea corridor linking Africa with India and other countries of South-East Asia and Oceania by rediscovering ancient sea-routes and creating new sea corridors that will link ports in Jamnagar (Gujarat) with Djibouti in the Gulf of Eden and similarly the ports of Mombasa and Zanzibar will be connected to ports near Madurai; Kolkata will be linked to Sittwe port in Myanmar. In fact India being the largest country in the India Ocean region does not want to allow China to incrrease its strategic influence with maritime silk route project at the cost of India’s traditional presence and influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Four main components

The AAGC would consist of four main components: development and cooperation projects, quality infrastructure and institutional connectivity, capacity and skill enhancement and people-to-people partnerships. These four components as well as four elements or four pillars are complementary to promote growth and all round development in both the continents.

Fields of collaboration

According to the vision document many fields of collaboration were laid out. Digital connectivity will also support the growth of innovative technology and services between Asia and Africa. There is scope for Asia to share its experiences of growth and development with Africa, according to persons involved in the project. It consists of five remarkable aspects. These aspects are: (a) effective mobilization of financial resources; (b) their alignment with socio-economic development and development strategies of partner countries and regions; (c) application of high-quality standards in terms of compliance with international standards established to mitigate environmental and social impact; (d) provision of quality of infrastructure taking into account aspects of economic efficiency and durability, inclusiveness, safety and disaster-resilience, sustainability as well as convenience and amenities; and (e) contribution to the local society and economy

Strategic Importance

The new initiative is being seen as a move by New Delhi and Tokyo to counter Beijing’s bids toexpandits geopolitical influenceinAsia and Africa, particularlythroughits One-Belt-One-Road cross-continental connectivity initiative. The vision of the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor is being developed on the four pillars–Development and Cooperation Projects, Quality Infrastructure and Institutional Connectivity, Enhancing Capacities and Skills and People-to-People Partnerships. Thus the collaboration is not related with any expansionist or military agenda but cooperation for development and partnership between the people of the regions. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar clarified that the partners of the proposed AAGC  would naturally like the initiative (Asia-Africa Growth Corridor) to be based on universally recognized international norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality. He further added that there must be a strong sense of local ownership that can only happen with consultative project designing, transfer of technology and encouragement of skills. This may be seen in the context of India’s opposition to CPEC. India has been particularly opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key component of the OBOR of China. The CPEC is proposed to pass through areas New Delhi claims to be integral parts of Jammu and Kashmir state of India and accuses Islamabad of illegally occupying. New Delhi has been accusing Beijing of infringing on sovereignty of India by joining Pakistan for the CPEC project. “Our activities must fully conform to balanced ecological and environmental protection and preservation standards.”

Tokyo, unlike New Delhi, has joined the Belt-and-Road initiative of Beijing. But Japan’s troubled ties with China has cast a shadow over its participation in the communist country’s international connectivity initiative, which has of late been also criticized for putting the smaller participating nations at the risk of being caught in a debt-trap. In this backdrop Indi’s Foreign Scretary pointed out, “No less important is ensuring of financial responsibility, so that there is no encouragement of unsustainable debts.” China along it OBOR and Maritime Silk Route is known for poor project governance, environment management and creating debt burden for the participating countries. The Indo-Japanese initiative would be better in these respects creating more acceptibility among the participating countries.

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