India-Nigeria Relations: A Strategic Friendship

The bilateral relations between Nigeria and India in the health sector must be revisited to drive new cooperation in order to strengthen the capacity of the decaying health systems and the boom experienced by India from Nigerians seeking medical attention in that country.

The Africa – India Forum Summit is an initiative between India and Africa Union nations to increase trade and investments. Two years ago the summit, which is third in the series of engagement, has come and gone, but the significance and realities of the not smooth bilateral and trade relations not in favour of Africa and indeed Nigeria continues to generate a lot of interest and debate particularly with the attendance of President Mohammed Buhari in furtherance of his shuttle diplomacy. Indeed the goal of shared development through cooperation between the two countries is in line with the global pledge and perspective on the reduction of world poverty as enshrined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Furthermore, evolving a new Nigeria – India cooperation would provide a platform for consensus- building and sharing common positions in diplomatic and trade relations. In the era of globalization and the sustenance of Nigerian foreign policy objectives and indeed the national interest aspiration template Nigeria must up its diplomatic game with India by deepening the existing solidarity and a deliberate reinvention of terms of trade and businesses  for mutual development and shared prosperity for the well being of Nigeria and India. Meanwhile, keeping the Nigerian foreign policy dimension alive and the unprecedented levels of participation by many African head of governments and President Buhari in the third India- Africa Summit is an opportunity to ignite the existing ties and it should be seen as a unique occasion to renew and further accelerate the Nigeria -India partnership because Nigeria is at critical moment change to addressing poverty, social justice, inclusion, economic efficiency, investment in education and above all corruption.

Interestingly, one of the major highlights of this year edition of the India – Africa Forum summit is the pledge to the establish the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) aimed at integrating Africa’s markets in line with the principles laid down in the Abuja Treaty, establishing the African Economic Community and its resolve to support the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum to conclude the negotiations by 2017. It should be recalled in August 2014 India’s duty free tariff lines to Africa were revised with a view to boost trade with African countries and indeed Nigeria. With this growing relationship, Africa’s exports to India, especially agricultural products, remain low and very disturbing when viewed against business opportunities enjoyed by India companies in Nigeria.

In my view, the hallmark of the summit is the pledge by the Indian government of a grant of a $10 billion loan to Africa, within a five year span and grant assistance of $600 million to Africa in the same period, including scholarships for 50,000 African students in India in the next 5 years. It is imperative that Nigerian government should take advantage of the collaboration, which is mutually beneficial to its development efforts. In the infrastructure sector, there is agreement on intensifying ongoing cooperation in training, capacity building, and consultancy and project implementation through concessional credit in infrastructure areas, including maritime connectivity, road and railway construction. According to the India-Africa Framework for Strategic Cooperation, the two sides would explore possible joint investments to establish a robust fibre optic infrastructure in Africa. Therefore, Nigeria and indeed African countries should also negotiate better and equal access to the Indian emerging market to balance the development equation.

Sadly, Nigeria, though rich in oil and solid mineral resources, accounts for less than three percent of total world trade. Hence, enhancing shared mutual interest in India’s economy should be a major chance in forging new bilateral relations by the Buhari administration. In this regard, the Indian magic wand and its sustainable experience with Science, industrialization and technology based on the development of indigenous scientific and technical capital – is worth exploring and replicating to drive employment here at home. Interestingly, Indian technology is the most adaptable and affordable in the 21st century. Their uncommon push for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been major success story of India’s scientific and technological development, which Nigeria must explore for the benefit job creation.

At the continental level, the African- India relation has yielded some high level of strategic partnership with the establishment of the Diamond Institute in Botswana. Apart from the Diamond Institute in Botswana, the India Government has India-Africa Institute of Foreign Trade (IAIFT) in Uganda, the India-Africa Institute of Information Technology (IAIIT) in Ghana and the India-Africa Institute of Education, Planning and Administration (IAIEPA) in Burundi. These strategic projects underscore the India’s focus on capacity building and human resources development in its Africa relations. Nevertheless, the Nigeria government in my view has not benefited from array of Indian companies operating in Nigeria at the same level with her African brothers. Therefore, Nigeria must take a more proactive and clear stand against incidents of exploitation of its people and market without a corresponding institutional capacity building in Nigeria.

The bilateral relations between Nigeria and India in the health sector must be re visited to drive new cooperation in order to strengthen the capacity of the decaying health systems and the boom experienced by India from Nigerians seeking medical attention in that country”. To address this critical gap the Nigerian government must develop strategies at the highest level of government- to government with view to attracting medical investors that are willing to develop medical services and state of art facilities in Nigeria. This will increasingly help reduce travel and foreign exchange costs for Nigeria who patronise Indian hospitals for treatments, especially surgical treatments and others sundry medical attention.

In the final analysis, a holistic engagement with all stakeholders is an imperative for an emerging Nigerian external relation particularly with the change architecture and the global ambition of fighting corruption on the one hand and degrading Boko Haram terrorism on the other hand. Indeed, better international communication and exchange mechanism between Nigeria and India could reduce the risk of isolation and conflicting stands on issues of mutual benefit and shared interests and ideas. Therefore, the issue of rebranding or repositioning Nigeria to India as an equal partner and the existing discolourations on the moral standing of Nigeria in the international marketplace is pivotal in its relations with India and indeed the Global North.

[Photo: Flickr/Nick Kenrick]