ABUJA (NIGERIA): Bolstering their economic and energy partnership, India and Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, have decided to open new avenues of cooperation in areas of civil nuclear energy, energy, space and food security.
The talks between India’s Vice-President Hamid Ansari and his Nigerian counterpart Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja on September 27 culminated in an ambitious template for scaling up the India-Nigeria relations in key areas that included, among others, hydrocarbons, renewable energy, defence, space and counter-terror cooperation.
Mr Ansari also called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who expressed a strong desire to galvanise the India-Nigeria partnership across the spectrum. President Buhari voiced admiration for India’s strengths in science and technology, space, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and food security and sought enhanced cooperation in these areas, said Amar Sinha, secretary (economic relations) and the seniormost officer handling Africa in India’s external affairs ministry. In his interaction, Mr Buhari fondly recalled his days studying at the Indian Defence Services Staff College in Wellington and pressed for enhancing defence cooperation between the two countries. India has decided to increase slots for Nigerians seeking training in military institutes in India to 200 per year. Education and training provide enduring emotive bonds between India and Nigerians as generations of young Nigerians have been taught by Indian teachers and have studied in various institutes across India.
The vice-president handed over an invitation letter to President Buhari to visit India next year.
New Vistas: Energising Ties
The outcomes of the talks in Abuja are set to have multiple ripple effects on India-Nigeria relations in days to come. In the area of energy security, India will be increasing imports of oil from Nigeria and diversify engagement in oil and gas sector by enhancing cooperation in both upstream and downstream domains.
Civil nuclear energy and renewables have been identified as important future areas of cooperation. In this context, a Nigerian delegation will visit India soon to study first-hand civil nuclear facilities in the country and peaceful uses of atomic energy.
In the area of food security, there were tangible discussions on how to leverage India’s expertise to promote the cultivation of food grains in Nigeria. Given vast swathes of fallow arable land in Nigeria, the two sides discussed possibilities of how India can help grow pulses and rice on the Nigerian soil, based on a co-ownership model.
The two countries signed a pact on standardisation of customs, which should help increase bilateral trade. Looking ahead, the two sides inked a letter of intent to sign three crucial pacts in areas of health, transfer of sentenced persons and renewable energy. These agreements are expected to be signed during President Buhari’s visit to India, said reliable sources.
Terrorism: How Nigeria can influence OIC
The Abuja talks are also set to intensify defence relations and impart a fresh impetus to counter-terror cooperation between the world’s fastest growing economy and the “giant of Africa,” as Mr Ansari puts it. With shared interests in combating terrorism, Mr Ansari exhorted Nigerian leaders to speak out on issues of cross-border terror at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which has been relentlessly used by Pakistan to corner India on the Kashmir issue. In his talks, the vice-president underlined that Nigeria as “an influential member of OIC should speak out at the OIC so that the entire agenda of the 57-nation grouping is not hijacked by any other country.” He conveyed India’s hope that Nigeria’s intervention can help shape “more balanced statements” by the OIC on the Kashmir issue. Many OIC countries, including Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar have condemned the terror attack on a military camp in north Kashmir which killed 18 Indian soldiers.
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