As India seeks to emerge as a prominent global power, New Delhi is cementing its both defence and economic ties with countries of significance. With Africa drawing both new Delhi and Beijing, India and Morocco could sign a defence pact to further boost bilateral relations.
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This was recently decided when Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had a virtual meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco Nasser Bourita.
India’s ties with Morocco go back to the 14th century, when the famous traveller and writer from Tangier, Ibn Batuta travelled to India. India was among the first countries to recognise Morocco on June 20, 1956, and relations were soon established with the country in 1957.
In 2017, India assisted with Morocco’s efforts to re-enter the African Union, being the largest Asian recipient of the African nation’s investment. A former Foreign Minister of Morocco even described Morocco as a cultural extension of India.
The Arab kingdom upholds the unique values of plurality and diversity, tolerance, which has helped the country align its outlook with India’s diverse population and promote mutual understanding on a range of issues.
Its unique geographical proximity with countries like Libya, and experience in dealing with extremist elements in a successful way makes it a key counter-terror and de-radicalisation partner for India in North Africa.
The bilateral ties between India and Morocco have acquired considerable depth and vitality following the landmark visit of Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco in October 2015 for the third India-Africa Forum Summit.
The visit followed the materialisation of over 40 MoUs and agreements in sectors like IT, education, culture, agriculture, mutual legal assistance, extradition, etc. The two countries have increased their business over the years in fertilisers, textiles, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and ICT sectors, according to Indian government officials.
The bilateral arrangements in the fields of cybersecurity, counter-terrorism and space have provided strong frameworks for building the foundation of a strong and comprehensive relationship.
Morocco’s unique achievements in its approach to combating violent extremism and radicalism within its borders has been commendable. The country’s political, economic, social, and justice sector reforms have ushered in prosperity and peace, and prevented occurrences of any revolutionary tumult and violent repression, something the country’s neighbours are profoundly struggling with.
Joined FM Nasser Bourita in a review of India-Morocco relations yesterday. Welcome the commendable progress in political & economic cooperation. New initiatives in defence, cyber & space hold promise. Our exchange of perspectives on African & global issues was valuable. pic.twitter.com/1t3tAuNmfG
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) October 23, 2020
The Moroccan Justice Minister Mohamed Auajjar during his India visit told Economic Times that “Morocco has a well-established school of counter-terrorism, which is globally recognised. We have counter-terror cooperation including bilateral legal arrangements with major countries to fight terror. Given the expansion in ties with India and mutual interest, we decided to sign these treaties with Delhi, taking our counter-terror partnership to the next level.”
The Minister said, “Morocco’s de-radicalisation initiatives have been lauded by the international community. We pursue a multi-dimensional counter-terror strategy that has three distinct stands: intelligence gathering, socio-economic reforms, and reform of religious schools.”
With India struggling with a range of violent forces for a long time, the country could work together with Morocco to improve its anti-terror strategies and bring any extremist activities under control.
Not just India, Morocco has security ties with France, Spain and Belgium with whom the country has shared intelligence and counter-terrorism information.
The country has built a unique reputation for its concrete stand on extremism and terrorism. This makes it imperative for India to shore up its ties with the African country, which has forged game-changing regional and international security cooperation with many countries ushering in development in the African continent.
With the outbreak of Covid-19 this year, India’s decision to send 6 million units of HCQ tablets to Morocco was commendable, besides the efforts to deliver eITEC courses for capacity building, representing a significant manifestation of India’s support to Morocco in times of crisis.
Opportunities in trade and commerce
Morocco is also considered as a gateway to Africa by the Indian businesses since the country’s stable political environment and promising economic returns ensure a safe haven to invest in the country.
Many leading Indian companies in several sectors are currently operating in the country, reflecting the aligned interest of both sides.
Morocco is rapidly emerging as North Africa’s economic leader and is a major source of phosphates for India, and continues to bolster its trade ties with Indian businesses.
The country also supports a permanent seat for India in the UN Security Council.
The country is located just 14 kilometres away from the European coast, and its strategic location at the crossroads of the main trade routes linking America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, makes it an important trading partner. Unlike its politically unstable neighbours, Morocco is teeming with attractive economic activities and business opportunities.
The country’s free trade agreements with other important nations make it an ideal destination for foreign investments and an entry point of exporting products free of duties towards a market of 55 countries, representing over a billion of consumers.
There are, therefore, tremendous opportunities for a country like India to expand its business activities in the region. In 2018, the trade between the two countries reached an all-time high, going beyond USD 1.5 billion.