June 2016 \ News \ DIPLOMATIC COLUMN
Being African

Africa has always been a troubled continent, intensely exploited and savagely colonized, leaving behind an ignominious trace in the racist appellation of ‘apartheid’,

By Malay Mishra

Thus you see the deadly assault of May 26 on Congolese student Olivier, followed by a spate of assaults on African nationals in Delhi and elsewhere, in a clearer perspective. It was but natural that the African Students Association would take out a protest march and the African Diplomatic Corps would demand stringent action on the part of GOI, the diplomats even refusing to attend the Africa Day celebrations organized by the ICCR, an important date in the calendar of African nationals in India. 

Tempers can be doused, the Foreign Secretary could meet the African Ambassadors and give the government’s commitment that their nationals would get all due security and cooperation of the Indian authorities. But this will soothe tempers until the next event only. For in all fairness, the public does not give much importance to the future of India-Africa relations, nor to the 3-million strong Indian diaspora which could bear yet another backlash of such attacks on their people in India. 

The losses will be incalculable, and the dynamics of our Africa relations, carefully nurtured over these years, would stand to be violated, difficult to be repaired again. The moment calls for nation-wide introspection, government-led advocacy cautioning our people against the adverse consequences of such actions and immediate precautionary measures by enforcement agencies. In the run-up to PM Modi’s 4-nation tour of Africa in July, barely a month away, such containment measures need to be taken with sensitivity, alacrity and utmost respect for the human being, despite the colour of the skin. 

India’s links with Africa have been forged in common destinies and a shared historical experience bringing to bear several affinities between our peoples. It is time we recognized that and led our people to understand the fragility of the situation and the futility of such destructive tendencies. 

—The author, a former ambassador, has served in Senegal, Mauritius, Seychelles, France, Germany, Iran, Trinidad, USA and Hungary. He can be reached at malay.mishra55@gmail.com


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