By Busayo Onijala
Lagos, Nov. 7, 2020 The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Abhay Thakur, on Thursday in Lagos commended the “long standing relations’’ between his country and Nigeria.
Thakur, who spoke at an official reception to mark the 60th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, said that India and Nigeria have a “unique age-old, long standing relations based on mutual respect and goodwill’’.
He said that both countries were multi-ethnic pluralistic societies with foundations built on tolerance, inclusiveness and socio-cultural harmony, achieving significant progress and emerging as large economies.
“Our first contacts were during the British colonial period, which saw the migration of indentured labourers from India to colonial ventures in Nigeria, followed by traders and capitalists.
“India’s freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi had an influence across Africa, including in Nigeria and like Mahatma Gandhi, Nigerian nationalists such as Nnamdi Azikiwe and Mazi Mbonu Ojike canvassed passive resistance and advocated use of native goods,” Thakur said.
According to him, “it is unknown to many, that certain Indian individuals also lent financial support to Nigerian nationalists.”
He said that India’s diplomatic house in Lagos was established in November 1958, two years before Nigerian independence, after which the countries’ political relations became tightly-knit based on shared values of Non-Alignment and the Commonwealth.
The high commissioner said that the mutual goodwill was such that a number of Indian teachers, doctors and professionals were brought to Nigeria during the 1970s.
“As friends and partners, India and Nigeria have always shared experiences and compared notes on many subjects.
“In this spirit, over the years, we have been happy to share our socio-economic developmental experiences with Africa, through our capacity building programmes.
“We shared our expertise to help set up the Nigerian Defence Academy in Kaduna and the Naval War College in Port Harcourt and in only the last three years, over 800 civilian and defence trainees from Nigeria have benefited from our ITEC training programmes.”
Thakur added that Nigeria was India’s largest trading partner in Africa, with 10 per cent of its energy needs being met by Nigeria and annual bilateral trade yielding about 14 billion dollars.
This, he said, had remained steady despite challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic which reflected the resilience of the countries’ mutually-beneficial and robust economic linkages.
“India is committed to supporting Nigeria and Africa in the fight against the COVID-19.
“I am confident that our ties will continue to widen, deepen and gain further momentum in the years ahead,” he said.
Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, in his speech delivered by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr. Gboyega Soyannwo said the celebration showed that Nigeria and India had come a long way.
“Today, we’re glad to celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations that have yielded great evidence in the area of bilateral trade and cultural exchanges, amongst others.
“The story of the successful and progressive bilateral relations between India and Nigeria will not be complete without prominent mention of Lagos State.
“Apart from hosting the diplomatic house, Lagos has provided home and comfort to a significant number of Indians and businesses in Nigeria,” he noted.
According to Sanwo-Olu, decades ago, Indian nationals contributed to the development of the Lagos’s educational sector as teachers in many schools.
“We cannot also forget the preponderance of Indian movies in our cinemas, where both young and old enjoy fine entertainment and exposure to the cultural values of the people of India.
“As we celebrate 60 years of mutually rewarding diplomatic relations, I want to assure you that Lagos will continue to cherish and preserve its cosmopolitan outlook.
“We will continue to sustain the warm hospitality for which we’re well acknowledged,” Sanwo-Olu said.