By Lizzy Okoji
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Geoffrey Onyeama, says Nigeria and India are exploring new areas of cooperation to strengthen the already strong and cordial bilateral ties between both countries.
Onyeama made this known when he received India’s Minister of State of External Affairs, Shri V. Muraleedharan, at the ministry on Monday.
Briefing newsmen after a closed-door meeting, Onyeama said that Muraleedharan, who was in Nigeria to attend the inauguration of the Nigeria-India Business Council (NIBC), shows how much importance Nigeria is to India.
Onyeama said that Nigeria also aspire learning from India’s wealth of knowledge in the areas of Information Communication and Technology.
“We have in areas of business a very solid and growing relations. India is one of the largest investors in Nigeria and of course India is one of the largest markets for Nigerian crude.
“And is a destination country for Nigerian students, for medical tourists and our cooperation is very strong in many other fields, defence industry and so on.
“In West Africa, the Indian population in Nigeria is probably the highest in any West African country, so the relationship is indeed a very close one.
“People to people relationship, business relationship and we aspire to achieve some very worthy achievements of India in the in the field of ICT,” he said.
“In the area of Information Technology, India is the leader now so we really feel that we can benefit enormously now in the relationship that we are building going forward.
“Of course, India is the world largest democracy and this value that we share as countries.
“In the multilateral sphere we share very similar global views and vision and cooperate extensively withinn various international organizations.
“And we look forward to ways to strengthen this going forward,” Onyeama added.
Fielding questions from newsmen, Onyeama said that Nigeria and India were also collaborating in the areas of defence and security, business and cultural cooperation, power and energy, among others.
“India is the main intitator in the framework of the conference of the parties on climate change of the solar alliance and on renewable energy.
“And obviously this is an area we as a country are trying to key into and benefit from.
“On Defence cooperation, there is a joint initiative with some of our Defence institutions on the development of detection of Improvised Explosive Devices which we are working on.
“Of course, that will be an important addition to the armoury of our security forces.
“There is a long-standing cooperation in the defence field and during this visit His Excellency will be meeting with the minister of defence and hopefully they will be able to agree on projects and cooperation in those areas,” Onyeama added.
Muraleedharan said that India and Nigeria have excellent relations at the bilateral level which he is optimistic would continue to thrive.
“Today we have the opportunity to discuss on various bilateral aspects, including the trade, consular issues, the education and all these issues.
“A very productive meeting that we have and we look forward to improving upon the relations that India and Nigeria has,” he said.
Also responding to questions from newsmen, Muraleedharan said that the newly established NIBC would be a milestone in the improvement of the bilateral trade, investment in various sectors.
Muraleedharan also said that India is ready to provide soft credit to Nigeria to build solar power plants.
“The multi sectoral delegation that has come from India to attend this NIBC will have discussions with their counterparts and various chambers in Nigeria.
“Through which they will devise means and methods on how they will collaborate and how Indian businesses and business houses can partner with Nigeria in various sectors.
“On Power, Nigeria is part of the International Solar which is the global alliance to ensure that sustainable power is there across the world.
“We are also on discussion on the setting up of solar power plant and India is interested to provide the soft credit to Nigeria.
“Another part beyond is training, India is ready to partner especially where it will be beneficial to the youths of Nigeria.
“So in the area of ICT the cooperation in skills development will go a long way in doing that,” Muraleedharan said.