Intense clashes between Sudan’s military and the country’s main paramilitary force have killed hundreds of people and sent thousands fleeing for safety. The burgeoning civil war threatens to destabilize the wider region also.
In this context, this edition of the Burning Issue will explain this war, its causes and implications.
Sudan is a country located in North Africa, bordered by Egypt to the north, Libya to the northwest, Chad to the west, the Central African Republic to the southwest, South Sudan to the south, Ethiopia to the southeast, and Eritrea to the east.
It is the third-largest country in Africa and has a diverse population of around 43 million people.
According to the World Bank, around 46% of the population lives below the poverty line, and many Sudanese people struggle to access basic services such as healthcare, education, and clean water.
Significance of Sudan
Borders seven countries: Sudan’s geographic location is crucial as it borders seven countries — Egypt, Ethiopia, Libya, Chad, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and South Sudan.
Strategic location on the Red Sea: Owing to its strategic location on the Red Sea and access to the Nile River.
Mineral and resources: With the vast swath of gold reserves and agriculture potential, the third largest African nation has long been coveted by outside powers, including its neighbors, the Gulf countries, Russia and the Western nations.
Rich oil potential: Sudan has underused potential of the rich soil that borders the Nile River.
About Sudan Crisis: Origin and Causes
Sudan is facing a crisis due to fighting between two rival military factions.
The underlying causes of conflict in Sudan is a result of the military generals’ overthrow of long-serving President Omar al-Bashir in April 2019, following widespread protests.
As a result, the military and protesters came to an agreement that established the Sovereignty Council, a power-sharing body that will lead Sudan to elections by the end of 2023.
Under the agreement, both the army and the RSF had to cede power, but two issues were contentious: the formal placing of the army under civilian oversight and the timetable for the RSF to be integrated into the regular armed forces.
However, in October 2021, the military toppled the transitional government led by Abdalla Hamdok. Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan became the de facto leader of the country, and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo became his second-in-command (Lt Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the current army chief and Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF))
Following the coup of 2021, a power struggle between two generals from the military (SAF) and the paramilitary (RSF) broke up a plan to move to elections in July 2023.
Global Implications of the Conflict
The entire region could destabilize: The volatile region, which borders the Red Sea, the Sahel, and the Horn of Africa, could be destabilized if the fighting continues.
Refugee crisis: The conflict in Sudan has the potential to cause a refugee crisis, with people fleeing the country to escape the violence and instability.
The democratic transition of Sudan failed: The latest conflict has pushed hopes for the establishment of a peaceful democracy even further to the margins, casting a long shadow on the general election set to take place in July this year.
Spillover to neighbouring countries: Many analysts fear that the ongoing war between the military and RSF would spill over into neighbouring countries, which are already mired in their internal conflicts, causing destabilization of the entire region.
Ethiopia’s dam project may be affected: Egypt, too, is closely observing the latest development. The country shares a strong bond with Sudan’s military, which it sees as an “ally against Ethiopia”, AP stated. Ethiopia, a land-locked nation, has locked horns with both Egypt and Sudan over its ambitious hydroelectric dam, which could impact the Nile River’s flow.
For Russia, Sudan has a subject of interest. The Kremlin has wanted to construct a naval base for years, capable of hosting up to 300 troops and four ships in Port Sudan, located on one of the world’s busiest and most contested sea lanes.
India Sudan Relations
It had already implemented 49 bilateral projects through concessional lines of credit worth USD 612 million in areas such as energy, transport, and agribusiness industry in Sudan in 2021.
India supported Sudan’s efforts to establish a transitional government and the government’s signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020.
India also supported including outside armed movements in the negotiation process and a national plan for 1,200 personnel of civilian protection.
As part of its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program, India provided Sudan with 290 scholarships for capacity building. In addition, India had offered Sudan humanitarian assistance in 2020, including food supplies.
Between 2005-2006 and 2018-2019, trade between India and Sudan increased from USD 327.27 million to USD 1663.7 million.
India invested approximately USD 3 billion in Sudan and South Sudan, with USD 2.4 billion going to ONGC Videsh, a public sector organization, in the petroleum sector.
What Was India’s Response: Operation Kaveri
India has launched “Operation Kaveri” to evacuate its citizens from war-torn Sudan.
It is the recent series of evacuations held by India over the last few years to rescue its nationals in crisis-hit countries. India rescued its nationals last year from war-hit Ukraine and Afghanistan.
The operation was launched in response to the conflict and breakdown of essential services in Sudan that had brought the country to a standstill.
India has positioned two transport aircraft of the IAF in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah and a naval ship at a key port in Sudan as part of its contingency plans to evacuate its stranded nationals.
The UN Security Council: will hold its first meeting on the crisis in Sudan soon. The council should try to end the crisis as soon as possible.
Regional major powers such as UAE, and Saudi Arabia should try to pacify the situation rather than becoming parties to the crisis.
Considering the current designs of Indo-Sudanese ties and Sudan’s location in the Horn of Africa, India needs to monitor its exchange, ventures, and interests in the district prior to making any hurried stride of perceiving the new system.
Where the fighting will end is unclear. Both sides claim control over key sites and fighting has been reported across the country in places far from the capital Khartoum.
India must safeguard its trade, investments, and other interests in the Horn of Africa. The Red Sea region is essential to India’s energy and maritime security.