VIF-NIIA webinar on India-Nigeria relations under the “Connect Africa” Programme
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On 27th October, 2022, Vivekananda International Foundation organized a webinar on India-Nigeria relations with Nigerian Institute of International Studies (NIIA), a premium think tank based in Nigeria. This was the second event under “Connect Africa” Program. The first event took place on September 22, 2022 where H.E. Ambassador Dr Tizita Mulugeta, (Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary) Ethiopian Ambassador to India, addressed at the inaugural Connect Africa event about current situationin Ethiopia and the future of India and Ethiopia relations.

The Discussion was divided in two sessions: Global and regional security environment and Prospects of India-Nigeria cooperation. During the 1st session, Ruchita Beri, IDSA presented Indian perspectives on global and regional security perspectives while Professor Otubanjo, NIIA presented the Nigerian views. The prospects of India-Nigeria cooperation was presented by Amb Anil Trigunayat, VIF and Professor Osaghae, NIIA respectively.

Defense cooperation has been the bedrock of India-Africa collaboration since the independence days. Most recently Defexpo took place in Gandhinagar, Gujarat where Indian Defense Minister met his counterparts from several African counties such as Mauritania, Gambia, and the Central African Republic (CAR). A giant step regarding India-Africa defence cooperation was undertaken when Indian Defence Minister announced the “India-Africa Security Fellowship Programme.” The Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) will host the fellowship. The fellows would receive some stipend while working in MP-IDSA for a time period of one to three months.

Both India and Nigeria have challenges related to terrorism and maintaining active collaboration on the sector. India helped set up various military institutions including the Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) at Kaduna, the Naval College at Port Harcourt besides other elite military training establishments in Nigeria. Several Nigerian officers have also been trained over the years in Indian military institutions. These include former Nigerian Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Ibrahim Babangida and several other top military officers. The incumbent President Muhammudu Buhari also attended the prestigious Defence Services Staff Course (DSSC) at Wellington in 1970s. India has supported Nigeria through training and capacity building of Nigerian Forces. Nigerian Air Force underwent a Counter-Intelligence/Counter Terrorism training. In 2021, the national security advisors held discussions on the strategies to counter threats from terrorism, extremism, radicalization including through the cyberspace at the local level.

Going forward, India and Nigeria may explore enhancing defense manufacturing cooperation. Today, Russia is the biggest source of weapons for Africa. As per SIPRI data, 30% of African weapons are imported from Russia, followed by China 20%, France 9.5%, and the US 5.4%. India can help Africa to diversify its sources and become less reliant on a few counties. Currently, West Africa is plagued with conflict and terrorism issues. Chad lost its President by terror attacks. Recently, three African countries Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso witnessed coups. Mali and Burkina Faso had two coups in two years. Nigeria can become a regional security provider and India may partner with Nigerian defense team. This will also help India to safeguard its different investments in the region.

Nigeria has election next year. Indian election commission (ECI) may provide some support to Nigeria in conducting election. ECI may consider organizing some training programmes including customized programmes sharing best practices, training and capacity building for Nigeria. India is a country with huge linguistic and geographic diversity. ECI’s experience of conducting free, fair and participative elections in such diverse condition can be very useful for Nigeria.

India is one of the largest trading partners of Nigeria and Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa with the bilateral trade touching US $ 11.948 billion in the 2021-22. More than 135 Indian companies are currently operating in Nigeria in diverse fields such as pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, electrical machinery and equipment, plastics, chemicals, etc. There are several G2G and B2B work going on between the two countries. However, there are several areas which are not fully explored. The current track II dialogue is aimed at tapping this potential areas of cooperation and coming out with some specific suggestions.Various futuristic fields like Fintech, AI, and health including vaccine manufacturing, digital and green growth, adaptation of new technologies including drones are some of the areas. Space is another emerging area of cooperation and an MOU on cooperation in Outer Space was signed between India and Nigeria in August 2020. An MOU on Cooperation in Cyber Security was also signed in Oct 2022.

Covid showed the world the importance of health infrastructure. True to the nature of its friendship, India extended its support to Africa by providing many essential medicines as well as vaccines. India supplied hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol tablets, test kits, and other medical equipment for about 90 countries, including 25 from Africa. India has also helped with capacity building by offering health care training for COVID-19 management and protocols to several countries in Africa through the e-ITEC courses. Under Mission Sagar initiative, the Indian Naval Ship, INS Kesari, supplied COVID-related relief to Mauritius, the Seychelles, Madagascar and the Comoros. Similarly under Mission ‘Sagar-II’, Indian Naval Ship, Airavat, sailed to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea with medicines and material to support their fight against natural calamities and COVID-19 pandemic. When the whole world was grappling with securing vaccines for their own nationals, India provided Made-in-India COVID vaccine for free or at a marginal cost to several African countries including Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. This has earned India lots of goodwill.

Going forward, VIF and NIIA must identify some key issues emerged during the discussion and develop them as policy papers etc. They may also plan organizing other similar meetings with more focused theme.

Event Date 
October 27, 2022

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