India’s ongoing Defexpo 2020 has a special guest in the form of the defence minister of Madagascar, an Indian Ocean island nation off the coast of East Africa.
In a first, as India looks to lend more heft to its Indo-Pacific policy, visiting minister Rakotonirina Leon Jean Richard will have a bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh to consider ways to implement an MoU for defence cooperation.
As first reported by ToI in December 2019, India has appointed a defence attache to its mission in Madagascar. This followed a decision by the foreign ministry to club countries in the region under one umbrella, namely the Indian Ocean Region Division which handles Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. This division now also handles Madagascar, Comoros and the French Reunion in the western Indian Ocean.
After Madagascar was hit by a cyclone last month, the government had diverted an Indian naval ship with relief supplies, Airavat, en route to Seychelles, to Madagascar. Indian officials had then said that the assistance to Madagascar was in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Security and Growth for all in the Region (SAGAR).
Responding to a tweet by Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina thanking him for the assistance, Modi said Wednesday India will stand with Madagascar “through thick and thin”.
“Connected to Madagascar by the Indian Ocean, India is committed to stand (sic) with Madagascar through thick and thin. I look forward to working with you for Security And Growth of All in the Region (SAGAR, which in Hindi means ocean),” tweeted Modi.
Richard is among the 14 ministers from Africa who will participate in the Defexpo and attend the India-Africa conclave.