November 18, 2016

While energy link is key to bilateral relationship, the two countries need to look beyond trade and economic development and build cooperation in the areas of knowledge exchange and other arenas of mutual benefit.

By Jhumki Dutta

India and Algeria have maintained close relations since the era of their own struggle for independence. With the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the relationship between the two countries has evolved into a promising partnership aimed at growth and development. While, Algeria views India as a potential economic and strategic partner as well as the model of a successful emerging country, India views Algeria as one of the leading economies of Africa and the developing world. In October 2015, the two countries met on several occasions including the India-Africa Trade Ministers and 3rd India-Africa Forum Summit and have discussed various matters, thus hinting at signs of a promising future for dense and dynamic relations between Algeria and India.

Politically, similar policy orientation and convergence of approach and strategies on regional and international matters brought Algeria and India closer. The learning’s from the colonial legacy and years of oppression under foreign rule made the two countries natural allies and friends. India supported Algerian liberation struggle and advocated for its freedom at all international forums, including the United Nations. With the establishment of diplomatic mission in July 1962 and Algeria’s membership of Non-Alignment movement in 1973, the two countries worked closely to maintain cohesion throughout the Cold War. High level visits by Indian leaders such as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1973 and Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985, and Algerian leaders like President Chadli Bendjedid in 1982, 1983 and 1987 and President M. Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2001 furthered strengthened the cordial relation. Besides these visits many Minister-level and official-level visits were undertaken by both the countries. In 2013 visit by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed to Algeria, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of Algeria’s independence and 50 Years of Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between India and Algeria, renewed and revived the strong bilateral relations between the two countries.Algeria, as a part of the African Union opines a greater role for India in the world order and has supported India’s candidature for a permanent seat in a reformed Security Council.

Economically, the two countries are working towards achieving their full potential with regard to trade and have showed signs over the years to develop at different levels. Bilateral trade has shown significant growth, which stood at 815 million USD of exports from India and 1.305 million USD exports from Algeria in 2014-2015. While Algeria exports mainly, energy and lubricants, and other non-hydrocarbon products, such as anhydrous ammonia, calcium phosphates, cork, leather and zinc. India exports cars, beef meat, agricultural tractors, telephones for cellular networks, drugs, milk, rice and fabrics. The frequent business visits by delegations and presence of companies operating in the sectors of finance, agriculture, construction, energy and mining have facilitated increased business and trade interactions. Following the visit by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed the two countries are also working towards framing possibility of joint venture for manufacturing gas-based nitrogenous fertilizers and develop a road map for further strengthening areas of bilateral cooperation including commercial and economic, human resource development, science and technology, ICT and pharmaceuticals among others. India on request from Algeria is also supporting the country to develop infrastructure including social housing, roads and highways, railways and airports.In 2015, ONGC one of India’s largest Oil and Natural Gas Company has committed to double African investments to $16 billion with expansions planned in Algeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. During the 9th Session of the Algeria-India Joint Commission in Algiers on 25-26 May 2015, both the countries met to redefine a comprehensive and mutually beneficial plan to further cooperation, thus creating prospects to foster economic ties.

The cultural links between Algeria and India are laid down in the executive Cultural Exchange Programmes (CEP). The areas of cultural cooperation includes exchanges of visits of performing artists, organizing cultural festivals, film festivals and exchanges in the field of youth affairs and sports. Both the countries have been forthcoming in showcasing their culture through film screening, dance performances, paintings, to name a few.

Efforts are currently being made by both the countries to achieve the full potential of their bilateral relations. While energy link is key to this relationship, the two countries need to look beyond trade and economic development and build cooperation in the areas of knowledge exchange and other arenas of mutual benefit. The Indo-African Summit held in Delhi in October 2015, marked a positive step towards furthering India-Africa relations, including that between India andAlgeria. Rather than seeking to distinguish itself from what is often termed as China’s exploitative relationship with Africa, the government is now focusing on a more responsive relation that prioritises ‘Africa’s needs and India’s strengths’.

(The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Indiafrica Today)