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Opening Remarks by Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy At MP-IDSA & Gusau Institute, Nigeria Webinar

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  • Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy
    March 30, 2021
    Opening Remarks by Amb. Sujan R. Chinoy
    Director General, MP-IDSA
    MP-IDSA & Gusau Institute, Nigeria Webinar
    30 March 2021

    Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau Mohammed, Founder, Gusau Institute,

    Amb Abhay Thakur, High Commissioner of India to Nigeria,

    Mr. Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) & Chairman, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19,

    Experts from Gusau Institute,

    Distinguished participants,

    Good afternoon,

    Today, we have gathered for the first bilateral event, albeit in virtual mode, between the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and the Gusau Institute of Nigeria. We hope we can schedule regular meetings in the future to deepen our friendship and mutual understanding.    

    My Institute has a long history of contributing to India-Africa ties. For many years now, we have been hosting an annual roundtable dialogue to commemorate Africa Day.

    While it is true that the focus of today’s webinar is on India and Nigeria facing the Covid-19 pandemic together, it is vital that we seize this opportunity to broaden our discussions with the aim of deepening our bilateral ties in diverse sectors.

    Today, India-Africa relations stand completely transformed under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has designated Africa as a ‘top priority of its foreign and economic policy’. Our development partnership remains anchored in the principles of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit, with demand being driven by African priorities.

    Friends, India and Nigeria share a unique bond. We are both large and populous countries. Our ties predate our political independence. We have sympathised with, and supported one another, in the endeavour to realise our true destinies as free nations.

    Nigeria is one of India’s key partners in Africa. Our partnership is multifaceted and multidimensional. We have deepened our cooperation in the energy sector and strengthened our people-to-people ties. Defence and strategic cooperation are also gathering momentum. The vast Indian diaspora in Nigeria acts as a bridge for robust bilateral engagement. 

    Friends, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll everywhere, in terms of human lives and economic setbacks. It has sharpened geostrategic competition. At the same time, it has also invited the human race to look beyond immediate selfish gains to work together to defeat what is arguably the most difficult challenge in a century.

    Economic recovery and building resilient supply chains to prevent future disruptions have emerged as major tasks.

    With the arrival of vaccines, the world is looking with hope beyond the pandemic. However, the globalisation of the future should be redefined to ensure that there is inclusive growth. Vulnerable countries in Asia and Africa will have to guard against exploitation of their resources and markets through insidious “debt traps”.

    As the world’s largest producer and exporter of vaccines, India’s readiness to ship these to dozens of countries under its Vaccine Maitri (Friendship) initiative to fight COVID-19 is a “good Samaritan” act in consonance with the Indian ethos of Vasudheva Kutumbakam (which in Sanskrit means that ‘the world is one family’).

    Healthcare provides us an opportunity to work together. India and Nigeria should also take the lead in working together in information technology. The Ministry of External Affairs of India has already extended the e-ITEC course on “COVID-19 Pandemic: Prevention and Management Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals” to healthcare workers in Africa. The Aarogya Setu App and the E-Gram Swaraj App for rural areas for mapping COVID-19 are technological achievements that could be useful for Nigeria.

    The COVID-19 pandemic has also brought to the fore the issue of mental health, an area that deserves closer attention.

    Since the movement of African students to India, including from Nigeria, for higher-education has been disrupted, India could consider expanding the e-VidyaBharti (tele education) project to establish special virtual programmes between Indian and Nigerian educational institutions. The Indian Institute of Technology in Chennai has devised courses for coastal management for Mauritius and Seychelles; something similar could be considered by Indian Institutes of Technology for Nigerian students.

    The fury of nature often calls for a coordinated response, whether in Asia or in Africa. I believe there is scope for Nigeria to work with India in the context of the 'Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure' (CDRI) initiative, leading to closer bilateral cooperation in this field.

    Collaboration in renewable energy holds great promise with 33 countries from Africa, including Nigeria, having joined the International Solar Alliance. Nigeria’s rare earth minerals are a reservoir for the high-tech manufacturing industry, including equipment required for harnessing renewable energy.

    Friends, the new US administration has recommitted itself to multilateralism. This augurs well for the UN and other agencies such as the WHO. It also helps the return to the fore of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. We believe that India’s non-permanent membership of the UNSC in 2021-2022 will give it a fresh opportunity to engage others and help strengthen multilateralism.

    Today, the concept of the Indo-Pacific is gaining wider currency. It is a contemporary and representative term that recognises that economic growth and prosperity is not the sole purvey of a few. Asia and Africa as a whole are showing the same promise that East Asia showed a few decades ago when the world spoke of the “Asia-Pacific”.

    Friends, our shared maritime interests remain anchored in developing a Blue Economy, particularly in the context of what Prime Minister Modi has termed SAGAR (Security And Growth For All In The Region).

    We have shared stakes in ensuring unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation and over-flight along key sea lanes of communication.

    As piracy rears its ugly head in the Gulf of Guinea, India could share with Nigeria its experience of fighting this menace in the Indian Ocean. Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has assumed great importance. In addition to its hosting the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR), India has recently become an observer to the Indian Ocean Commission (COI), and the Djibouti Code of Conduct (DCoC) and its 2017 Jeddah Amendment. India is also posting naval liaison officers to the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar, among other places. In all, India has concluded white shipping agreements with 21 countries to facilitate the task of cooperating to keep the seas free, open and safe. Perhaps the two governments could examine the scope for concluding a White Shipping agreement.

    There is also great potential to engage in fruitful cooperation in cyber security, counter-terrorism and military training.

    It is a matter of privilege for India that the Nigerian President H.E. Muhammadu Buhari is an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington (Tamil Nadu) in India. Given India’s rich record of participation in peace-keeping operations in Africa and Nigeria’s own profile in this regard, it would be to our mutual advantage to strengthen cooperation in peace-keeping.

    Overall, I am glad to inform you all that India’s defence cooperation with Africa is growing, as evident in the AFINDEX 2019 field exercise and the MILAN naval exercise. The 1st ever India Africa Defence Ministers’ Conclave held in Lucknow during DEFEXPO on 6 February 2020 and the recent participation of African dignitaries at the AERO INDIA 2021 exhibition in Bangalore have consolidated these links.

    Stronger India-Nigeria ties will promote multipolarity and give impetus to developmental partnerships at the global level.

    I am confident that today’s discussions will throw new light on many issues and outline a blueprint for more robust India-Nigeria cooperation in these difficult times.

    I would now request Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau Mohammed, Founder, Gusau Institute, to deliver his opening remarks.

    Thank you.