Rabat – It is pertinent to note that India and the north African nation of Morocco will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year. In fact, the two countries have been witnessing a steady upswing in bilateral ties in recent times.
A major milestone towards this end was the visit of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to India in 2015 to participate in the India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi.
The gesture of the Indian government inviting the Moroccan monarch for the Summit despite Morocco not being part of the African Union (AU) back then was certainly a big one. It put India-Morocco relations on a higher platform and opened the door to new possibilities.
Those possibilities were further enhanced when Morocco regained admission to AU earlier this year – a development that New Delhi has already welcomed. With Morocco back in the African institutional family, India has a new strong partner to further its interests in Africa.
It definitely helps that Morocco can be India’s bridge to Francophone western Africa where New Delhi’s influence has been relatively weak. Add to this the fact that Morocco has emerged as an island of stability in north Africa, as a top investor in the Sahara and Sahel regions, and as an economy that is poised for significant growth, New Delhi can benefit tremendously from taking relations with Rabat to the next level.
That said, there’s one big limitation holding back India-Morocco partnership – lethargy. Despite the opportunities available, India has been quite slow to capitalise on them. As a result, bilateral engagements have been growing at snail’s pace. Contrast this with the way China is ramping up ties with Morocco.
Recently, King Mohammed presided over the signing ceremony for the Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City – a project to be carried out by the Tangiers-Tétouan- Al Hoceima region, HAITE Chinese group and BMCE Bank. It involves building an economic pole that would generate 100,000 jobs and consist of establishing 200 Chinese companies operating in automotive manufacturing, aerospace industry, aviation spare parts, electronic information, textiles and machinery manufacturing. The total investment of the companies in the area after a period of 10 years is expected to reach $10 billion.
The choice of Tangiers as the host of the Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City underlines Morocco’s strategic geographical position at the crossroads of continents and only 15km from Europe. Add to this the existence of well-developed infrastructure in the form of the Tangiers Med port. Taken together, the Mohammed VI Tangiers Tech City is a strategic Chinese investment in Morocco that leverages the best of two countries. Unfortunately, India has nothing close to this with Morocco.
True, New Delhi and Beijing have different resources and skill sets. Even accounting for this, India has been too slow to capitalise on ties with Morocco. This is precisely why New Delhi should get cracking and use the occasion of the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic ties with Morocco to take bilateral relations to the next level.
It’s time to make Morocco a veritable axis of India’s diplomatic and economic outreach to Africa, and convert words into action.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent any institution or entity. This article was first published at Times of India