Tanzania-India Relations: Analysis of President Samia’s Visit to India

Tanzania-India Relations
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Recently, the government’s social media pages have been decorated with posters announcing Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan’s pivotal journey to India. A few days ago, she was in Qatar; we did not see the whole fanfare, come to think about it. We did not even know she was travelling; we just saw her there. Now I am waiting for the usually divided reaction – one side praising her trip as monumental to the bilateral relationship with India, and others looking to nickname her “Vasco Da Gama” – or something similar. However, I should chip into the conversation with this article about Tanzania-India Relations.

This visit, scheduled from October 8th to 11th, 2023, has been the talk of diplomatic corridors, given its importance in the regional and global landscape. The anticipation surrounding this visit is reminiscent of the enthusiasm seen during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tour to Tanzania in 2016. So why does this trip matter and get attention?

Historical and Cultural Ties Between Tanzania and India

Centuries ago, maritime trade existed between the East African coast and the Indian subcontinent. This trade led to the spread of various cultural, linguistic, and architectural influences. The Swahili coast, which includes parts of modern-day Tanzania, was an integral part of these networks, exchanging goods like ivory gold and enslaved people for Indian textiles, spices, and ceramics.

In the 19th century, many Indians migrated to East Africa, including Tanzania, as labourers, traders, and professionals. Many came during the British colonial administration’s construction of the Uganda Railway. This Indian community played a crucial role in the country’s commerce, education, and public services. Even though some faced expulsion or left due to political pressures in the 1970s, a significant Indian community remains in Tanzania today.

Moreover, India and Tanzania experienced British colonial rule, and similar non-violence and civil disobedience philosophies influenced their struggles for independence. Leaders from both countries, most notably Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, shared mutual respect and common goals of decolonisation during the mid-20th century.

Today,  Indian influence can be seen in Tanzanian cuisine, language, music, and clothing. Dishes that use spices like cumin, coriander, and cardamom; the popularity of Indian movies and music; and the presence of Swahili words of Indian origin, like “chai” (tea), showcase these exchanges.

A Thriving Indian Diaspora:

The streets of Tanzania’s urban centres, from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza and beyond, resonate with the sounds, tastes, and colours brought by the significant Indian diaspora that calls this nation home. Predominantly hailing from regions like Gujarat, the Indian community in Tanzania has, over time, woven itself seamlessly into the fabric of Tanzanian society. Their significant contributions, especially in trade, industry, and services, highlight their integral role in Tanzania’s socio-economic landscape.

However, it’s not just economic contributions that underline their importance. The way Indian festivals light up Tanzanian towns and cities, the vibrancy of community organisations, and the shared celebrations emphasise the deeply rooted camaraderie between Tanzania and India. In these celebrations, mutual respect and love showcase the best of what people-to-people ties can offer to bilateral relations.

Expanded Military and Security Cooperation:

Since the landmark moment in 2003, when both nations inked the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Co-operation, India and Tanzania have consistently broadened their horizons in defence and security. This agreement laid the groundwork for collaborative efforts that grew stronger with time.

In the recent past, India’s pivotal role in training Tanzanian defence personnel speaks volumes about the depth of trust that has been established. India has showcased its commitment to sharing expertise and building a robust defence partnership by opening its premier military institutions to Tanzanian officers.

Furthermore, the joint defence exercises between the two countries symbolise their mutual interest in maintaining regional stability and security. These exercises sharpen military readiness and underscore the shared vision of a peaceful and secure environment. As both nations navigate the complex geopolitics of the 21st century, this growing military collaboration serves as a beacon of mutual support and cooperation.

Nurturing Developmental Ties:

India and Tanzania share more than just diplomatic relations; they share a bond forged through years of mutual support and developmental cooperation. A tangible reflection of this bond is seen in the numerous IT and communication projects that have come to fruition in Tanzania with India’s backing. Institutions like the Centre of Excellence in ICT and the Pan African e-Network Project aren’t just infrastructural developments but symbols of India’s unwavering commitment to Tanzania’s technological and educational growth.

But the ties don’t stop there. In times of need, India has stepped up, extending a helping hand in healthcare. Providing essential medicines and vaccines to Tanzania is not just aid; it’s a testament to the trust and camaraderie the two nations share.

Further solidifying this partnership is India’s investment in Tanzania’s education sector. The generous donation of NCERT Science & Mathematics textbooks and the groundbreaking initiative of setting up the IIT Madras Zanzibar campus underlines India’s dedication to nurturing the minds of the Tanzanian youth. These initiatives are not mere gestures but pillars that continue to uphold and strengthen the deep-rooted bond between Tanzania and India.

The Bright Horizon of Tanzania-India Relations

As President Samia Suluhu Hassan prepares for her monumental journey to India, reflecting on the multifaceted ties that bind Tanzania and India together is imperative. From defence pacts to cultural exchanges and developmental projects to the thriving diaspora, every facet tells a story of collaboration, trust, and shared aspirations.

The past endeavours have laid a strong foundation, and President Samia’s visit represents a pivotal moment to further this legacy. It is not just a diplomatic engagement but an opportunity for both nations to explore new avenues of cooperation, exchange fresh ideas, and reinforce their commitment to shared growth and prosperity.

The world watches closely as two nations, rich in heritage and driven by progress, come together to chart a course for the future. The potential outcomes of this visit are manifold – be it in terms of trade, education, technology, or cultural collaboration. But beyond the tangible results, the spirit of partnership and mutual respect will shine the brightest.

President Samia’s trip signifies more than diplomatic formalities; it embodies the hope and promise of an even stronger Tanzania-India alliance in the coming years. A partnership that stands as a beacon of South-South cooperation and showcases the power of shared visions and harmonious relations with the world.

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Salvius Evarister
Salvius Evarister
9 months ago

Depth analysis gives the root ties between Tanzania and India, Conglationtion

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