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PM unveils new vision of ties with Nigeria

Manmohan Singh says both sides should seek to upgrade cooperation on terrorism and nuclear disarmament.
PTI | By VS Chandrasekhar, Abuja
UPDATED ON OCT 15, 2007 05:55 PM IST

Unveiling his new vision of ties with Nigeria, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said the two countries should seek to upgrade their cooperation on security matters to meet the emerging threats of terrorism and challenges to social fabric.

He said both countries should also establish a sustained dialogue with other African countries to identify joint approaches on international issues like terror and nuclear disarmament.

Given the rare honour to a visiting dignitary, the Prime Minister laid out the roadmap for ties in his address to the joint session of the Nigerian National Assembly, which was attended by all sections of the House including a group which had threatened to boycott it because it had a running duel with Speaker Patricia Etteh on corruption charges against her.

Singh, the first Indian Prime Minister to make a bilateral visit after Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's trip in 1962, gave his vision of the future ties with Nigeria and rest of Africa.

"We are approaching the 50th year of the establishment of our diplomatic relations. There can be no no better occasion than this to launch a Strategic Partnership between India and Nigeria. It will be anchored in the past and look to the future,"
he said in his address heard in rapt attention punctuated with thumping of desks.

"Ours is a partnership for peace, stability and security. Without peace, there cannot be a sustained economic progress. Both India and Nigeria seek peace and stability in their neighbourhood. Nigeria's contributions to conflict resolution in Africa are well known," he said.

"We are united in our condemnation of terrorism as a grave threat to humankind. We seek to upgrade our cooperation on security matters to meet these emerging threats and challenges to our social fabric."

"We have been involved in peacekeeping efforts in Africa over the past six decades," he said.

The Prime Minister said if India and Nigeria could give concrete shape to the vision that he has shared with the Parliament, the transformation that was being sought in the relations in the 21st century would be within reach.

"We have decided to create a high-level dialogue with the great continent of Africa. The first meeting of the India-Africa Forum Summit will be hosted by us in New Delhi in April, 2008. We look forward to Nigeria's active contribution to this initiative," he said.

Singh said the seas and oceans had never been a barrier to India's age-old exchanges with Africa.

Africa has always been a part of the Indian consciousness. It was on African soil that Mahatma Gandhi developed his unique philosophy of non-violent struggle, he said.

"I believe that India and Africa have a shared destiny and a common future. Ours is a relationship that must now now be brought to full bloom. Let us work together to make this happen," Singh said.

Maintaining that the success of diverse democracies like Nigeria and India was important, he said it would prove that democracy and development go hand in hand.

"This is a partnership for economic growth. There are many complementaries in our rapidly growing economies. Nigeria is already India's largest trading partner in Africa, but we need to vastly expand and diversify our trade," Singh said.

He noted that there has been a surge in Indian investment abroad in areas like Information Technology, energy, pharmaceuticals and auto components.

"We would like to see Indian investment expand in Nigeria. Nigeria has always provided a congenial home for Indian business," he said.

The Prime Minister said the two countries could promote transfer of technologies in key areas of the knowledge economy like information technology and biotechnology. Small and medium industry can play a key role.

"Our partnership is for development. We need to share experiences on effective strategies for sustainable development, poverty alleviation, health care facilities and universal education.

"In this context, being largely agrarian societies, there is great potential for cooperation in agricultural research, soil and water management and food processing."

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