In a very important speech earlier this month on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of Morocco’s historic Green March, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI emphasised his country’s new Atlantic vision. It
will be recalled that the Green March refers to the peaceful reclamation of the Moroccan Sahara by the people of Morocco in 1975. It undid a grave historical injustice wrought on Morocco by 19th century European colonial powers who hived off this part of the Sahara from Morocco proper and made it a Spanish exclave.
In that sense, the Green March was the final death blow to European
colonialism in Morocco. Today, Morocco is expending huge resources to develop its Sahara provinces. It is practically a tax-free region of the country, and revenues generated from the area and reinvested in the region for local development. This first-among-equals treatment is necessary to not only undo the huge exploitative damage that Spanish colonialism did to the region, but to also thwart the nefarious designs of the separatist Polisario Front and its backers in Algeria, who together have been carrying out armed machinations to undermine Morocco’s sovereignty over the region.
However, recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over the Moroccan Sahara is only growing with the US having made the decisive call in 2020. Following that, several countries have opened their
consulates in the Moroccan Sahara and have recognised Morocco’s Autonomy Plan for the region as the only credible solution to the artificial dispute brought on by Polisario and Algeria. It is in this context that Morocco’s new Atlantic vision is taking shape. The Moroccan Sahara’s Atlantic coast is not only being pitched as Morocco’s gateway to rest of Africa and the Americas, it is
also being fashioned as a bridge between Africa’s Sahel region and the Atlantic.
This is crucial in the context of the political-security situation in the Sahel. The region, due to lack of adequate infrastructure, corruption and increasing impact of climate change, tends to be politically unstable. This is borne out by the fact that three Sahelian countries – Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – have witnessed coups in the last three years. Add to this the coup in neighbouring Gabon. In many of these coups there are allegations of Russian influence and Wagner activity, which are essentially preying on the grievances of local communities. And those grievances are often directed against erstwhile French colonialism and the perceived representatives of French interests in the
King Mohammed is right in emphasising that solutions to this instability can’t be found in security measures alone. Adequate economic opportunities need to be created to break the cycle. And this is why access to the Atlantic for Sahelian countries is very important. That Morocco is willing to invest in this connectivity infrastructure is exemplified by the mega Morocco-Nigeria Trans-African gas
pipeline project that will not only benefit West Africa but will also guarantee energy supplies for Europe.
Therefore, Morocco is playing an extremely important strategic role here. It is trying to stabilise the Sahel by putting its own infrastructure at the disposal of regional countries so that they have the developmental opportunities afforded by access to the Atlantic coast. Needless to say the actualisation of such projects will also help counter undesirable interference by foreign agents in these countries.
Towards this end, Morocco has already created an Atlantic framework through the Atlantic African States Process, whose third ministerial was held last July with the participation of 21 African countries bordering the Atlantic. Further, this month, Morocco hosted the first edition of the Blue Africa Summit which brought 26 African coastal states together, demanding greater commitment towards the development of a Blue Economy that is critical for Africa’s growth.
The subject also presents a big opportunity for India-Morocco cooperation. In fact, to add teeth to Morocco’s Atlantic plans, New Delhi should boost maritime and naval cooperation with Rabat. In this
regard, the two countries held a joint naval exercise in September that included communication drills, tactical and air operations. India can help strengthen Moroccan naval development and the two countries, along with the US, could even embark on joint construction of strategic naval vessels. This will not only help India expand its footprint in North and West Africa, but also strengthen a key partner in the region.
Africa is poised to emerge as the next global growth hub, and the race for influence on the continent has already begun. India and Morocco must continue strengthening their partnership for mutual benefit.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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