Nigeria and India have worked out strategies on how to strengthen the bilateral relations between both countries, particularly on counter-terrorism, defence, maritime security around the Gulf of Guinea as well as economy.
This was contained in a joint communiqué issued on Wednesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after a virtual meeting on Tuesday between Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, and India’s Minister of External Affairs, S.Jaishanka.
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 ongoing collaborative efforts through information sharing between the Indian and Nigerian Navies and increase of surveillance for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, through 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,” the communique said.
“With a bilateral trade turnover of USD 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,” it said.
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. They also 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 organised by the Indian government under the ITEC programme.
Jaishankar reiterated India’s continued support in technical cooperation and capacity building in diverse sectors of interest to Nigeria.
Both sides commended the first consular dialogue between the two countries held in September 2019 and agreed to continue to strategise on the follow-up actions towards the implementation of the outcomes of the meeting that will be of mutual benefit to both countries.
They also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in consular matters and the desire to conclude on bilateral agreements in the field of Mutual Legal Assistance, Extradition Treaty and the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. They recognised that such cooperation will also help in strengthening business, medical tourism and education-related travel and exchanges between the two countries.
Both sides thanked each other for facilitating essential travel by their respective citizens and residents over the last two months, including the return of over 5,800 Indian nationals to India on 23 flights from Nigeria, and over 500 Nigerian and 1,500 permanent Indian residents on eight flights from India. In this context, they look forward to the operationalisation of direct flights between the two countries by the two designated carriers approved by both countries.
Jaishankar thanked 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++FoFF) online meeting last month, and has extended its maritime security training programmes 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 emphasised that terrorism is a scourge and a threat to the entire world, and condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including violent extremism.