India and Tanzania strengthen strategic defence partnership

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Both bordering the Indian Ocean, Tanzania and India are strengthening their ties, especially in light of India’s African foreign policy initiative. On 8 October, a visit by Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan to New Delhi led Narendra Modi to sign a strategic partnership with the East African country, tied to a five-year roadmap for defence cooperation.

It notably encompasses military training, maritime cooperation, capacity building, anti-terrorism and links between defence industries. The two heads of state also underlined their perspective regarding terrorism, the biggest security threat to humanity according to them.

The part regarding the defence industry is to be stressed, as India sees Tanzania as one of its entry points into Africa. Now that it has created a strong local defence industry, New Delhi expects to take advantage of it on the international stage, where it has to face the established Turkish, Israeli, Chinese and South Korean competition.

If Tanzanian delegations went to India to visit local industry groups in 2022, their interest permitted the creation that year of the India-Tanzania Mini DEFEXPO, where delegations met in Der es Salaam. A second edition was held in 2023 and was attended by India’s Army Chief, notably to talk about cooperation, just a few days before the signature of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

In particular, India has in mind the possible exportation to African countries of the Akash air defence missile and the Brahmos supersonic missile. If these technologies seem a bit of an overkill for the Tanzanian army, it is more probable that India will sell or give infantry fighting vehicles or armoured personnel carriers to Tanzania, as the latter mainly use armoured vehicles designed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Although the defence relationship between India and Tanzania is growing, it is actually 20 years old, with the first defence partnership being signed in 2003. The fact that India is now reacting to China’s expansion on the African continent will, surely, see increasing effort from New Delhi to deepen its relationships.

If Egypt and Nigeria, two regional giants, are notably targeted by Indian diplomacy, the Asian country might also promote commonwealth countries, given the large Indian populations there. For now, India notably launched a major military exercise on its soil with 17 African countries in 2019. Tanzania has trained 400 of its 27 000 soldiers-strong army in India.

Written by ADIT – The Bulletin and republished with permission.