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India-Kenya Relations

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In December 2023, India and Kenya have taken significant steps to strengthen their bilateral relations. India announced a $250 million line of credit to Kenya for modernization of its agricultural sector. The two nations also signed five memoranda of understanding to enhance cooperation in various fields including defense, trade, energy, digital public infrastructure, and healthcare. Furthermore, India and Kenya agreed to step up maritime security cooperation, a move seen as a response to China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

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This topic of “India-Kenya Relations” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Historical Background of India-Kenya Relations

  • The historical ties between India and Kenya date back several centuries, with trade links and commercial ties established as both nations are littoral states of the Indian Ocean.
  • The presence of Indians in Kenya is significant, with many being descendants of laborers brought in by the British to construct the Uganda Railway.
  • Prior to India’s independence, the welfare of Indians in Southeast Africa gained the attention of Indian freedom fighters. Notably, Sarojini Naidu chaired the Mombasa session of the East African Indian Congress in 1924, and a fact-finding mission under K.P.S. Menon was sent there in 1934.
  • After India’s independence, it established an Office of the Commissioner for British East Africa resident in Nairobi in 1948. Given deteriorating race relations between Indians and Kenyans, Jawaharlal Nehru appointed the senior diplomat Apa Pant as High Commissioner to Kenya.
  • Despite worsening race relations in Kenya that led to the exodus of Asians there to India and Britain, economic cooperation between India and Kenya flourished and became an exemplar of South-South cooperation.
  • Following Kenyan independence in 1963, an Indian High Commission was established in Nairobi.

Political Relations Between India and Kenya

  • India and Kenya have a robust and multi-faceted partnership, marked by regular high-level visits, increasing trade and investment, and extensive people-to-people contacts.
  • Nehru gave support to Jomo Kenyatta and the Kenya African National Union party, asking Indians in Kenya to identify themselves with the locals.
  • High-level bilateral visits have been a significant part of India-Kenya relations. Notable visits include Vice President Dr. S Radhakrishnan’s visit to Kenya in July 1956, Smt. Indira Gandhi’s attendance at the Kenyan Independence celebrations in 1963, and PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Kenya on 10-11 July 2016.
  • In December 2023, Kenyan President William Samoei Ruto visited India, marking his first visit in his present capacity.
  • India and Kenya are members of international fora like the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Commonwealth of Nations, G-77 and G-15, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and often cooperate with each other on these fora.
  • The two nations have agreed to increase counter-terror cooperation, with both sides recognizing terrorism as a significant challenge facing humanity.
  • India and Kenya have also agreed to enhance information sharing related to maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region and support the work undertaken by the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) for real-time information sharing between both nations to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness.
  • India has offered a slot for an International Liaison Officer representing the DCoC-JA (Djibouti Code of Conduct Jedda Amendment) at the IFC-IOR at Gurugram in Haryana.
  • India and Kenya, being two Indian Ocean nations, have a shared priority of strengthening maritime security and combating piracy and drug trafficking.

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High-Level Bilateral Visits

India and Kenya have a robust and multi-faceted partnership, marked by regular high-level visits that have shaped the course of their bilateral relations.

  • Vice President Dr. S Radhakrishnan visited Kenya in July 1956.
  • Smt. Indira Gandhi attended the Kenyan Independence celebrations in 1963. She also visited Kenya in 1970 and 1981.
  • PM Morarji Desai visited Kenya in 1978.
  • President Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy visited Kenya in 1981.
  • President Moi of Kenya visited India for a bilateral visit in 1981 and for the NAM Summit in 1983.
  • The State visit of PM Narendra Modi to Kenya on 10-11 July 2016 gave a new impetus to the bilateral partnership. PM Modi and President Uhuru Kenyatta discussed a wide range of bilateral issues and witnessed the signing of seven MoUs/Agreements in the fields of defence, trade, and developmental assistance.
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta paid a State Visit to India from 10-12 January 2017 on an invitation extended by PM Narendra Modi. During the visit, President Kenyatta held meetings with the President and Vice President, attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, and a business forum in Delhi.
  • Kenyan President William Samoei Ruto’s visited India in December 2023, marking the first presidential trip from Kenya to India in over six years.
  • V Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs, visited Kenya with a 30-member business delegation in 2023.
  • Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Aden Bare Duale, undertook a three-day visit to India in August 2023.

Economic Ties and Trade Agreements

India is one of the largest trading partners of Kenya, with the current trade volume to the tune of USD 2.2158 billion (2019-20).

  • Main Indian exports to Kenya include petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, steel products, machinery, yarn, vehicles, and power transmission equipment.
  • Main Kenyan exports to India include soda ash, vegetables, tea, leather, and metal scrap.
  • An India-Kenya Trade Agreement was signed in 1981, under which both countries accorded Most Favoured Nation status to each other.
  • The India-Kenya Joint Trade Committee (JTC) was set up at Ministerial level in 1983 as a follow-up to the Agreement. The JTC has met nine times since, the last in August 2019 in New Delhi.
  • According to the Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), India is the second largest investor in Kenya. Over 60 major Indian companies have invested in various sectors including manufacturing, real estate, pharmaceuticals, telecom, IT & ITES, banking, and agro-based industries.
  • India offers development assistance to Kenya in the form of loans and credit. This includes a loan of Rs. 50 million to the Government of Kenya in 1982 and Lines of Credit by EXIM Bank to Industrial Development Bank Capital Ltd.
  • Kenyan exporters to India face high tariffs since the current bilateral trade agreement only covers trading under most-favoured nation status.

Indian Diaspora in Kenya

The Indian diaspora in Kenya, often known as Kenyan Asians, are citizens and residents of Kenya with ancestral roots in the Indian subcontinent.

  • The Indian diaspora in Kenya is estimated to be around 80,000 to 100,000, making Kenya the African country with the largest Indian community after South Africa.
  • The Indian community in Kenya is largely affluent and plays leading roles in the region’s business sector, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, retail and wholesale trade, and manufacturing.
  • Many Kenyans visit India for medical treatment.
  • Several Kenyans of Indian origin have made significant contributions to Kenya’s pre-independence period, including the labour leader Makhan Singh.
  • The Indian diaspora in Kenya arrived in the 19th century from British India as indentured labourers, many of them to work on the Kenya–Uganda railway. Others had arrived earlier by sea as traders.
  • The Indian community in Kenya is a vibrant community of persons of Indian origin, including an estimated 20,000 Indian citizens.

Cooperation in Defense and Maritime Security

India and Kenya have been strengthening their defense and maritime security cooperation. The two nations have emphasized on military exercises, capacity building, and linking the defense industries of both countries. The Joint Defence Cooperation Committee, instituted in 2016, serves as a cornerstone in this strategic partnership.

  • The two nations have agreed to increase counter-terror cooperation, recognizing terrorism as a serious challenge facing humanity.
  • The leaders have agreed to deepen maritime security cooperation by further strengthening existing dialogue mechanisms like the India-Kenya Joint Defence Cooperation Committee.
  • They have also agreed to enhance information sharing related to maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region and support the work undertaken by the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) for real-time information sharing between both nations to enhance Maritime Domain Awareness.
  • India and Kenya have also decided to collaborate in the field of shipbuilding. The two countries recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that will see India’s state-owned Goa Shipyard partner with Kenya Shipyards (KSL) in capacity building, ship design, and construction.
  • The MoU also includes collaboration in the co-development of defense equipment like maritime surveillance tools, offshore patrol vessels, fast attack crafts, and other essential resources necessary for Kenya’s maritime forces.
  • India has committed to extending capacity-building assistance to Kenya, covering oceanography, ship design and construction, dredging, welding, fisheries, port development, and research capacity.
  • India has offered collaboration opportunities, including providing a slot for an International Liaison Officer representing Djibouti Code of Conduct-Jeddah Amendment at IFC-IOR and an Indian Naval Officer as an instructor at Kenya Navy Training College.

India’s Assistance to Kenya

India has been a reliable and committed development partner for Kenya, providing assistance in various sectors including agriculture, digital public infrastructure, and healthcare.

  • India has announced a $250 million line of credit to Kenya for modernization of its agricultural sector.
  • India has offered a customised training programme for 20 scientists of the Kenya Space Agency and the University of Nairobi at the Indian Space Research Organisation in space technology applications.
  • The two sides have agreed to launch a geospatial information portal for Kenya with remote sensing data sets provided by India.
  • India is ready to share its achievements in digital infrastructure with Kenya.
  • Through ITEC and ICCR scholarships, India has made a significant contribution in the skill development and capacity building of the people of Kenya.

India-Kenya Cooperation in Agriculture and Food Security

India and Kenya have agreed to strengthen bilateral ties in the field of agriculture and food security.

  • India has decided to provide a line of credit of $250 million to modernize Kenya’s agricultural sector.
  • The Kenyan side has offered land for farming to Indian companies under a cooperative model.
  • India and Kenya have agreed to share their experiences as two agrarian economies.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with India’s Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions (SRISTI) and the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) to promote food security in Kenya through the transfer of affordable, innovative Indian farm and food processing machinery.
  • The overall aim of the programme is to improve agricultural productivity and food security by fostering mechanization among smallholder farmers using Indian grassroots innovations.
  • The project has enhanced climate resilience in Kenya by improving local agricultural productivity and food security through replicating India’s success in adopting efficient and cost-effective farm operations.

Challenges and Opportunities in India-Kenya Relations

India-Kenya relations face several challenges and opportunities, which can be addressed through mutual cooperation and understanding.

Challenges:

  • Balancing economic interests with China’s growing presence in Africa, including Kenya.
  • Addressing trade imbalances and high tariffs faced by Kenyan exporters to India.
  • Ensuring the welfare and integration of the Indian diaspora in Kenya.
  • Combating terrorism and piracy in the Indian Ocean region.
  • Addressing environmental concerns and promoting sustainable development.

Opportunities:

  • Strengthening defense and maritime security cooperation.
  • Enhancing trade and investment ties, particularly in sectors like agriculture, healthcare, and digital infrastructure.
  • Leveraging the Indian diaspora’s potential in Kenya for mutual benefit.
  • Collaborating in regional and international forums to address common challenges and promote shared interests.
  • Expanding cooperation in areas like space technology, renewable energy, and capacity building.

Recent Developments in India-Kenya Relations

Recent developments in India-Kenya relations have focused on enhancing cooperation in various sectors, including defense, trade, agriculture, and healthcare.

  • India announced a $250 million line of credit to Kenya for modernizing its agricultural sector.
  • The two nations signed five memoranda of understanding to enhance cooperation in defense, trade, energy, digital public infrastructure, and healthcare.
  • India and Kenya agreed to step up maritime security cooperation, a move seen as a response to China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.
  • India and Kenya have decided to increase counter-terror cooperation and enhance information sharing related to maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.

India-Kenya Relations in the Context of Global Forums

India and Kenya actively cooperate in various global forums, including the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, G-15, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation. Their collaboration in these forums helps address common challenges and promote shared interests.

Conclusion

India-Kenya relations have a strong foundation based on historical ties, shared values, and mutual interests. The recent developments in their bilateral relations, including the signing of MoUs and the announcement of a $250 million line of credit, demonstrate their commitment to further strengthening their partnership. By addressing the challenges and leveraging the opportunities, India and Kenya can continue to deepen their cooperation and contribute to regional stability and prosperity.

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