India rejects racism behind attacks on Africans | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 05.04.2017
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India rejects racism behind attacks on Africans

After African nations rebuked India for not doing enough to stop attacks on their nationals in the country, Indian foreign minister said their statement was "unfortunate" and objected to their demand for a UN probe.

Speaking in India's parliament on Wednesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj termed as "unfortunate, painful and surprising" the recent statement issued by a group of African diplomats accusing the Indian government of failing to do enough to stop racist attacks on their nationals residing in India.  

The strongly-worded statement was released by representatives of 44 African countries - in which they described the violence as "xenophobic and racial," and called for an investigation by the UN Human Rights Council. 

But Swaraj said: "Before an inquiry is completed, please don't say it is driven by racial discrimination."

"Racist crimes are pre-planned which was not the case here," she added, stressing that the Indian government is committed to ensuring the security of all foreigners in the South Asian nation.

The minister's response came days after the attack on five Nigerian students in Greater Noida, some 40 kilometers from the Indian capital New Delhi.

'Reprehensible events'

The violence was sparked by allegations that the African students were involved in drug trafficking and the overdose death of a young Indian boy. Police arrested the five but then released them citing a lack of evidence.

Indien Proteste gegen Angriffe auf Studenten aus Tansania in Banglaore (Getty Images/AFP/M. Kiran)

Africans living India have regularly faced brutal attacks

The incident was captured on camera and went viral on social media, triggering concern and widespread outrage over a rise in racist violence against Africans in India.

In their statement, the envoys said they expected strong condemnation and action from India. "These reprehensible events, both outstanding and unresolved cases against Africans, were not sufficiently condemned by the Indian authorities," they said.

It clearly was the strongest step by the diplomats since they threatened to boycott the Africa Day celebrations of May 25, 2016, following the murder of a Congolese teacher in Delhi.

There was also a strong and swift reaction from the African community in India. "We should now move away from tweets for our support and we need to see change.  This can't go on like this anymore," Abdou Ibrahim, a former president of the Association of African Students in India, told DW.

"Black is not dark. This is a new phenomenon. I really get scared and this is suddenly surfacing in a country we have always loved," Simeon Emmanuel, a college student from Punjab University, told DW. 

Thousands of Africans have chosen India as their destination to study and work in recent years. Most of them live in big cities and have often complained of facing discrimination and racist taunts on the streets. 

Hurting ties

The recent attacks and the negative media coverage associated with them have the potential to damage India's diplomatic efforts to lure the resource-rich continent. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to boost India's trade and investment ties with Africa over the past couple of years, in a bid to counter China's growing clout there. 

India's trade with African countries was estimated at $70 billion in 2014, but China's annual trade with Africa was three times larger. India also aims to benefit from Africa's vast natural resources. Besides oil and gas, the world's second-largest continent has huge deposits of gold, silver, copper, iron, uranium and diamonds. 

A number of Indian firms already have significant interests and investments in the region, with strategic sectors including agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, information and communications technology (ICT), and energy.

Indien Sushma Swaraj (picture alliance/AP Photo/G. Amarasinghe)

Swaraj: 'Before an inquiry is completed, please don't say it is driven by racial discrimination'

At the India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015, Modi pledged $10 billion in new credit to the African Union. 

Observers say the close ties between the two sides could be hampered by a lack of effective response to the recent attacks. 

"I think the Indian government has to respond well after these attacks. Africa needs partnerships. And India remains in a position to leverage the continent's quest for development as it seeks to play a larger role on the global stage," Francis Muttangi, a diplomat from the Uganda High Commission, told DW.

"We could have problems there. Sure the African continent is not a whole, but negative sentiments from what's happening here (Delhi) can have an impact," says Ajay Dubey, professor of African Studies at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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