Rajnath Singh heads to Nigeria to attend swearing-in of President Bola Tinubu

May 27, 2023 04:05 PM IST

Defence minister Rajnath Singh will also hold talks with Nigerian officials to identify military hardware that can be exported

Defence minister Rajnath Singh will be on a three-day official visit to Nigeria from May 28 to May 30 to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the west African nation’s next President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and hold talks with Nigerian officials to identify military hardware that can be exported, the defence ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh. (File)
Defence minister Rajnath Singh. (File)

This is the first time that an Indian defence minister is visiting Nigeria. The visit comes in the backdrop of India deepening its engagement with African countries and taking steps to tap the defence markets there.

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Singh will attend the swearing-in ceremony at Eagle Square in Abuja on May 29, and meet the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari at a reception on Sunday, the statement said. The visit will be an important landmark in building strong bonds of friendship between the two countries, it said.

“Considering the growing defence cooperation between India and Nigeria, senior officers of Ministry of Defence and top leadership of important defence PSUs will accompany Shri Rajnath Singh. They will hold meetings with the representatives from the Nigerian industry and the Armed Forces to identify the equipment and platforms, through which the Indian defence industry can support the country’s requirements,” the statement added.

Boosting defence exports is a priority for the government.

India is currently exporting military hardware to around 85 countries, with around 100 firms involved in the exports. This hardware includes missiles, artillery guns, rockets, armoured vehicles, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, a variety of radars, surveillance systems and ammunition. Weapons and systems that hold export potential include the light combat aircraft, different types of helicopters, Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile and tanks.

India is exporting bullet-proof jackets to 34 countries including Australia, Japan, Israel and Brazil, ammunition (ranging from 5.56mm to 155mm) to around 10 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Indonesia and Thailand, fast interceptor boats to Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives, and defence electronics to countries like the US, the UK and France, as previously reported by HT.

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Singh’s visit comes two months after India hosted the first edition of the India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave in March. The conclave, held on the sidelines of the 2nd Africa-India Joint Exercise ‘AFINDEX’ in Pune, was attended by army chief General Manoj Pande and the chiefs and representatives of 31 African nations.

Addressing the conclave, Singh reiterated India’s commitment to provide support to African countries in defence related matters, including capability enhancement of their armed forces to ensure their economic growth and social development.

India has been at the forefront of providing training to the militaries of African nations and equipping them with necessary skills to face emerging security challenges, officials said. The training covers a raft of areas, including counter-insurgency operations, peacekeeping, maritime security and specialised training in new domains such as cyber warfare and drone operations, they added.

Singh will also address the Indian diaspora at Abuja during his visit. Nigeria is home to around 50,000 members of the Indian community.

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