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India has declared the African region as a ‘top priority’ area in its foreign policy agenda. India has deepened her ties with Nigeria, one of the African continent’s rapidly growing economies. India has helped Nigeria in capacity building and training assistance. India has developed or revived several forms of bilateral and multilateral cooperation with Nigeria since 2014.
A virtual bilateral meeting was held between India and Nigeria. The two Foreign Ministers, Dr. S. Jaishankar and Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, held wide ranging discussions on the entire gamut of India-Nigeria bilateral relations.
During the interaction, the two Ministers recognized and acknowledged the excellent long standing, multifaceted and strategic bilateral ties between the two counties, based on mutual friendship and cooperation. India being the largest democracy in the world and Nigeria the largest democracy in Africa, share the values of pluralism, inclusiveness and sustainable development for all. Both sides agreed to maintain the momentum in strengthening the excellent ties for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples.
The discussions covered a wide spectrum of cooperation on political, economic and trade, defence and security, developmental assistance and cultural cooperation. Both sides recalled their extensive cooperation in the field of defence training and capacity building, and expressed satisfaction that it was expanding to newer areas such as defence equipment support, medical and maintenance services, sharing of R&D expertise for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, and regular exchange of information/views. The two Ministers noted that the next meeting of the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee will be held later this year in Abuja.
The two Ministers acknowledged on going collaborative efforts through information sharing between the Indian and Nigerian Navies and increase of surveillance for Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, though collaboration between Indian and Nigerian Navies. The Ministers urged the armed forces of both countries, to continue to work together in the on-going efforts to counter terrorism, insurgency and piracy.
With a bilateral trade turnover of US$ 13.9 billion in 2019-20, India is Nigeria’s largest trading partner, and Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa. Despite the Covid-19 challenge, bilateral trade has remained steady which shows the resilience of our trade-economic linkages. Nigeria is a leading energy security partner of India, and both sides agreed to strengthen their cooperation in this sector including at Government to Government level.
Both sides also agreed to expand cooperation in Information Technology (IT), Defence and solar energy projects to be executed through Indian Line of Credit (LoC) Both parties reiterated their commitment to conclude pending MoU’s /Agreements between the two countries expeditiously. Both sides expressed satisfaction with the signing of the MOU on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Outer Space last month.
The Nigerian side expressed appreciation to India for the recent donation of medical supplies in support of the on-going fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and recalled Nigerian participation in recent E-Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programmes in COVID management organized by the Indian government under the ITEC program. Dr. Jaishankar reiterated India’s continued support in technical cooperation and capacity building in diverse sectors of interest to Nigeria.
The two sides had facilitated essential travel by their respective citizens and residents over the last two months, including the return of over 5800 Indian nationals to India on 23 flights from Nigeria, and over 500 Nigerian and 1500 permanent Indian residents on 8 flights from India. In this context, they look forward to the operationalization of direct flights between the two countries by the two designated carriers approved by both countries.
Dr. Jaishankar thanked Mr. Onyeama for Nigeria’s support for the safe release of 44 Indian seafarers taken hostage in three separate incidents of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea during 2019. India had participated in the G7 plus Friends of Gulf of Guinea (G7++FoGG) online meeting last month, and has extended its maritime security training programs to Nigeria.
As large developing countries, both sides have similar approaches and shared agendas on international issues. They agreed to continue and further strengthen their cooperation and mutual support in multilateral fora including the UN and WTO. They emphasized that terrorism is a scourge and a threat to the entire world, and condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including violent extremism.
Script: Padam Singh; AIR: News Analyst