India’s relations with wider continent of Africa date back several centuries thereby characterized by robust historical and civilizational links. For instance, the visits by Indian merchants and businessmen to Mozambique, located in South Eastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean, pre-date the sail by Vasco da Gama. This has helped lay strong foundation in people-to-people connect which has been further enhanced in modern times to build a robust bilateral partnership. India and Mozambique bilateral ties become significant and an important priority for both the countries under the larger framework of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Kampala Principles” of 2018. The principles are based on shared goals of prosperity, equality, opportunity, liberty for all thereby emphasizing South-South cooperation among nations of Africa and India. Therefore, Kampala Principles continue to shape India’s approach to the continent and its relations with Mozambique.
The South Asia nation and the East African littoral state have shared many common challenges in the past and continue to do so such as fight against colonialism, terrorism and impact of climate change, which have strengthened the bilateral relations over the years. Highlighting the significance of the bilateral ties, Dr S Jaishankar, India’s Minister of External Affairs referred to India’s relations with Mozambique as the “most important and substantive relationships in Africa.” Therefore, symbiotic India and Mozambique bilateral ties have become crucial today in the times of South-South solidarity where foreign policy decisions are determined by interests and priorities of each other in the path towards development of the Global South.
The bilateral relations between India and Mozambique are reflective of strong engagement in the political, economic, energy, defence and strategic domains. India’s support to Mozambique in its struggle against colonialism and regular political contacts since then have strengthened the political relations. Importantly, India was among the first few countries to establish its embassy in Mozambique immediately after its independence in 1975 wherein Indian Ambassador was among those who witnessed hoisting of flag of the newly independent African nation.
The regular and the nature of political visits have only resulted in the culmination of series of discussions and agreements in crucial areas of energy, agriculture and defence. For instance, during President Filipe Nyusi’s visit to India in August 2015, agriculture and energy sectors were accorded top priority to deepen the bilateral ties. Further, when PM Modi visited Mozambique in July 2016, Indian leadership committed its role in developing institutional and economic development of the East African littoral state, closer cooperation in dealing with drug smuggling, in areas of sports and youth exchange programmes and agriculture.
The recent visit of Dr S Jaishankar, India’s External Affairs Minister in April 2023 as part of 5th Joint Commission Meeting is testimony to the fact the relations are blooming. He made stock of the progress made in the bilateral relations with emphasis on trade, defence, education, agriculture, health, energy and investment. In order to signify the crucial role played by India in developing infrastructure in the African nation, he took a ride in a ‘Made in India’ train in Maputo along with Mozambican Minister of Transport. Importantly, he also inaugurated the Buzi bridge that is constructed as part of 132 kms long Tica-Buzi-Nova-Sofala road project. According to him, this bridge is symbolic of India Mozambique friendship and solidarity, which is the basis of the bilateral relations.
The bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries have grown steadily over the past few years. The strong trade ties are underlined by the fact that trade volume between the two countries stands at around 4 billion dollars today. India’s exports to Mozambique include pharmaceuticals, machinery, petroleum products, whereas imports include cashews, coking coal, raw agricultural products, among others. Apart from trade, economic relations also include massive investments made especially by India in gas and energy sectors of Mozambique. The recent discovery of around 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and coal reserves in the Rovuma basin in the northern part of the East African nation has increased considerably the importance of Mozambique in India’s energy strategy. At present, India has investments worth 11 billion dollars in the field of energy and mining.
The importance of Rovuma gas basin can be gauged from the fact that India is the biggest investor with an investment of 30 percent participating interest in Area 1 of this project. Further, in 2014, 65 percent of assets sold by Rio Tinto, world’s second largest metals and mining group, were acquired by International Coal Ventures Private Limited that is a consortium of five Indian Public Sector Undertakings. There are many Indian firms that have a huge presence in coal mining sector of Mozambique namely Jindal, Tata, Coal India Limited, JSW, among others. Importantly, the coking coal produced from these mines in Mozambique back significant proportion of steel industry in India.
India’s huge support in Mozambique’s development sector has become a crucial dimension in the versatile and strong bilateral ties. India offers assistance to the development sector of Mozambique through concessional Lines of Credit (LOC) that is implemented through EXIM Bank of India. Thus, India has extended support in various social and developmental sectors of the East African nation namely improvement of provisions of drinking water, establishment of IT parks, reforming power sector, enhancing agricultural productivity, improvement in railway and irrigation sector, among others. India’s significant contribution to Mozambique’s development is visible and appreciated in education sector wherein number of scholarships are offered to Mozambican students to pursue higher education in the South Asian nation. Additionally, Government of India also offers training courses that are short-term in nature to working professionals particularly those working in the Mozambique Government. India and Mozambique also work closely in the field of humanitarian assistance with former providing aid to the latter especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai in March 2019 and Covid-19 pandemic.
Mozambique is key in the larger maritime security domain of India that focusses on safeguarding and ensuring peace and stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Importantly, the Mozambique channel has become an important transit and trading hub connecting the Indian Ocean to rest of the globe. The recent discovery of natural gas and coal reserves in Rovuma Basin has made the Mozambique Channel a crucial global maritime chokepoint. Specifically, the channel is identified by India’s 2015 Maritime Security Strategy as the key primary areas of maritime interest. Importantly, India has maintained perpetual security presence in this region with Indian naval ships providing security and conducting exercises to strengthen its strategic foothold.
The robust defence and strategic ties scan be gauged from the fact that the East Africa nation is the only second country of the continent with whom India shares a strategic partnership. India has constructively responded to Mozambique’s help in dealing with terrorism, radicalization and other security issues. In fact, Mr Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of India’s visit to Mozambique in 2019 is considered a historic one as it was the first visit by an Indian Defence Minister and importantly, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on white shipping information. Moreover, India also handed over 44 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and 2 Indian made Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs) to Mozambique leadership.
India and Mozambique share a very robust people-to-people connect which in fact has provided a strong foundation to the bilateral ties today. The migration in the earlier centuries has resulted into many Indians becoming Mozambican nationals tracing their ancestry to western Indian regions of Gujarat, Goa, Daman and Diu. Today they constitute a very important segment of the Mozambican economy particularly in areas of wholesale and retail trade. Moreover, there are currently many Indian working professionals employed in Indian companies operational in different parts of Mozambique. Importantly, the emphasis on collaboration in education sector especially in terms of scholarships and training programmes have considerably strengthened people-to-people ties between the two nations today.
Therefore, while India and Mozambique have used multi-pronged strategies in diverse sectors thereby making the bilateral relations very unique, there are still few areas in which both the nations can enhance their efforts. For instance, India has shown serious commitment towards capacity building of Mozambique’s Armed Forces and other areas of defence and security in the past. However, India needs to strengthen its position as a net security provider in the region by ensuring that the Mozambique channel does not become a security hotspot in the IOR. Importantly, a robust and warm India and Mozambique relations signify growing South-South cooperation and therefore, both the countries should ensure frequent constructive engagements that put a premium on dealing with common challenges collectively and security of the larger IOR region.