With his trademark panache, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hosting the largest gathering of African leaders ever on Indian soil this week. Though India was indeed marginal to developments in Africa during the Cold War years, its political commitment to the Non-Aligned Movement and its emphasis on South-South cooperation in the context of New Delhi's diplomatic support for African nationalist movements, left it well positioned to take up engagement across the continent and forge new ties.

The end of the Cold War presented new opportunities for India to interact with Africa. India's rapid economic growth needed new markets and access to resources. As a result, economic engagement with Africa has become central to India's new approach. This is related to India's search for energy security, in which Africa is playing an increasingly important role.

India is seeking diversification of its oil supplies away from the Middle East, and Africa will be playing an important role in India's energy matrix. The search for oil has taken India to various African states, including Nigeria, Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal. Africa accounts for about 20 percent of India's oil imports, which are likely to grow in the future.