Why India is interested in Morocco

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Rabat -Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari has just returned from his 3-day visit to Morocco from May 30t to June 1st, 2016. During his time here, Ansari met with Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane, and a Chamber of Commerce and Industry was formed to facilitate bilateral trade. But why might India be interested in Morocco?

The most immediate answer is phosphates. Phosphates are used for fertilizer, making them extremely valuable to agrarian societies such as India. Moroccan phosphate resources are among the most extensive in the world, with only China and the United States reaching similar levels of production.

China, as of 2015, far outpaced Morocco’s phosphate production at roughly 100 million tons. However, China and India have a well-known rivalry that has resulted in war and seizure of territory in past decades. The strategic benefits of relying on Chinese resources to feed India’s people and bolster its economy are dubious.

The United States produced 27.6 million tons of phosphates in the same year, but Morocco produced 30 million tons, earning it a place among the two leading global superpowers. However, Moroccan phosphate reserves are the largest in the world by a significant margin; some estimates place Moroccan phosphate reserves at half of the world’s total.

This makes the kingdom an ideal trading partner to India, with resources that will only increase. Given the importance of food resources to a nation as populous as India, obtaining phosphates is a top priority. In return for these and other resources, India offers automobile manufacturing and pharmaceutical production to Morocco.

India’s influence in Africa has waned over recent decades, with rival China increasing its economic presence. To improve its own position on the geopolitical stage, India must become more involved with the affairs of so large a continent as Africa. This is especially pertinent given India’s ambitions to obtain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

On a more fundamental level, India and Morocco share certain societal outlooks and political situations. They certainly have no animosity for one another, as characterized by Vice President Ansari’s statement: “There are no points of conflict [between India and Morocco] and politically our outlooks do not clash.”

Similarities run deeper than a mere lack of conflict; both nations have a clearly dominant religion, but are nonetheless hubs of multiculturalism. Morocco has been an Islamic nation since the Arab conquest in the 8th Century, but garnered a reputation for tolerance in al Andalus by fostering a society in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians could coexist. It later became a haven for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, and enjoyed a rare peace among religions in the Middle Ages and later centuries.

India is also home to significant religious minorities. As of 2015, it houses the third largest population of Muslims in the world, as well as a sizeable Sikh minority. Tensions and clashes among these groups have become central to the political stage. Morocco’s history of coexistence may provide a worthwhile point of reference to Indian political leadership.

Likewise, both nations govern territory that is internationally disputed. Morocco’s governance over its Southern Provinces/Western Sahara is a point of contention with the United Nations, which has encouraged a referendum that has proved unworkable.

Similarly, India governs large territories in Jammu and Kashmir, and the United Nations has also advocated a referendum that has failed to come about. India and Morocco share similar political flashpoints, which remain unresolved.

India and Morocco are separated by 8,458 km (5256 miles), but united by trade. The economic advantages to a partnership are abundantly clear, but the relationship could go far beyond an exchange of goods alone.

Perhaps Morocco and India can learn from their shared social and political issues and move forward together, expanding their relationship to a deeper and more lasting engagement. This may not be the intention of either government, but the parallels between their circumstances are clear, and may present an opportunity for progress and mutual understanding.

source: moroccoworldnews http://bit.ly/2dSw7lf