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Historical relations concerned mainly India and Eastern Africa. However, in modern days —and with the expansion of diplomatic and commercial representations,— India has now developed ties with most of the African nations. In 2013 trade between India & Africa stood at US$ 72 billion making India the fourth largest trading partner of Africa.
Africa and India are separated by the Indian Ocean. The geographical proximity between the Horn of Africa and the Indian subcontinent has played an important role in the development of the relationship since ancient times.
Ancient trade relations
Little is known about contacts made between Indians and Africans before the first century CE. The only surviving source, Periplus Maris Erythraei (Periplus of the Erythraean Sea),—which dates to mid-first century—refers to trade relations between the Kingdom of Aksum (nowadays Ethiopia) and Ancient India around the first millennium. Helped by the monsoon winds, merchants traded cotton, glass beads and other goods in exchange for gold and soft-carved ivory. The influence of the Indian architecture on the African kingdom shows the level of trade development between the two civilizations.
Under Ptolemaic rule, Ancient Egypt dispatched two trade delegations to India. The Greek Ptolemaic dynasty and India had developed bilateral trade using the Red Sea and Indian ports. Controlling the western and northern end of other trade routes to Southern Arabia and India, the Ptolemies had begun to exploit trading opportunities with India prior to the Roman involvement but according to the historian Strabo the volume of commerce between India and Greece was not comparable to that of later Indian-Roman trade. The Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions a time when sea trade between India and Egypt did not involve direct sailings. The cargo under these situations was shipped to Aden:
|“||Eudaimon Arabia was called fortunate, being once a city, when, because ships neither came from India to Egypt nor did those from Egypt dare to go further but only came as far as this place, it received the cargoes from both, just as Alexandria receives goods brought from outside and from Egypt.||”|
|“||"At any rate, when Gallus was prefect of Egypt, I accompanied him and ascended the Nile as far as Syene and the frontiers of Kingdom of Aksum, and I learned that as many as one hundred and twenty vessels were sailing from Myos Hormos to India, whereas formerly, under the Ptolemies, only a very few ventured to undertake the voyage and to carry on traffic in Indian merchandise."||”|
In India, the ports of Barbaricum (modern Karachi), Barygaza, Muziris, Korkai, Kaveripattinam and Arikamedu on the southern tip of India were the main centers of this trade. The Periplus Maris Erythraei describes Greco-Roman merchants selling in Barbaricum "thin clothing, figured linens, topaz, coral, storax, frankincense, vessels of glass,and silver and gold plate" in exchange for "costus, bdellium, lycium, nard, turquoise, lapis lazuli, Seric skins, cotton cloth, silk yarn, and indigo". In Barygaza, they would buy wheat, rice, sesame oil, cotton and cloth.
With the establishment of Roman Egypt, the Romans took over and further developed the already existing trade. Roman trade with India played an important role in further developing the Red Sea route. Starting around 100 BCE a route from Roman Egypt to India was established, making use of the Red Sea to cross the Arabian Sea directly to southern India. Traces of Indian influences are visible in Roman works of silver and ivory, or in Egyptian cotton and silk fabrics. The Indian presence in Alexandria may have influenced the culture but little is known about the manner of this influence. Clement of Alexandria mentions the Buddha in his writings and other Indian religions find mentions in other texts of the period.
Medieval period relations
African heritage in India
The presence of Africans in India dates back to the eighth century CE.
Under the rule of the British Empire
The stay of Mohandas Gandhi in South Africa between 1893 and 1915 remains one of the main events which paved the road to the modern-day political relations.
The development of modern-day relations has gone through two main periods. During the period of colonialism and liberation wars, political relations became stronger. At the wake of the Cold War, many African countries joined the non-aligned movement pioneered by Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia and Yugoslavia.
During the years of decolonisation, India exerted considerable political and ideological influence in Africa as a role model and a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. But India’s ability to develop a broader strategic role in Africa during the 20th century was subject to several constraints. India’s influence was limited by financial weakness and inward-looking economic policies. Its commitment to decolonisation through nonviolent means made it relatively reluctant to provide military assistance to national liberation movements. India’s role in East Africa was also constrained by the large Indian ethnic population that was often resented by black African nationalists. 
The India-Africa Forum Summit, which was held from April 4 to April 8, 2008 in New Delhi, India for the first time, constitutes the basic framework for the relations under the South-South Cooperation platform.
Indian firms are conducting numerous takeovers abroad and are venturing into Africa. In June 2008, Bharti Airtel, an Indian telecommunications giant, purchased Zain Africa for US$9 billion. Trade between India & Africa has grown exponentially during the past decade. Indo-African trade volume reached US$ 53.3 billion in 2010-11 & US$ 62 billion in 2011-12. It is expected that it would further go up to US$ 90 billion by 2015. As of 2011, India has emerged as Africa's fourth largest trade partner behind China, EU & USA whilst Africa has emerged as India's sixth largest trading partner behind EU, China, UAE, USA & ASEAN. It is to be noted that this volume was at a meager US$ 3 billion in 2001. In November 2012 FICCI President led a business delegation to Ethiopia to meet the new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and reaffirm India's commitment to the growth and development of Africa. Indian companies have already invested more than US$ 34 billion in the resource-rich continent as of 2011 & further investments worth US$ 59.7 billion are in the pipeline. Among the proposals that CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) received from the African nations are 126 agricultural projects worth an investment of $4.74 billion, 177 infrastructure projects worth $34.19 billion, and 34 energy sector plans costing $20.74 billion (337 projects totalling US$ 59.7 billion). Ex-Prime Minister of India, Dr.Manmohan Singh while expressing his country's support to Africa, said in an Indo-African trade summit that "Africa possesses all the prerequisites to become a major growth pole of the world in the 21st century. We will work with Africa to enable it to realise this potential". The Indian government has promised to extend loans worth US$ 5.4 billion (during 2011-14) to several African nations in order to nurture growth in those nations.
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