Thakur told the Nigeria News Agency , on the sidelines of the 78th Anniversary of India Republic Day celebrations in Abuja on Thursday that both nations had enjoyed “warm, friendly and deep-rooted bilateral relations”.
“Our relationship with Nigeria dates back to 1958; India established its Diplomatic House in Lagos in November 1958.
“At present, India is Nigeria’s largest trading partner and Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa. India is also the largest buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil.
“Some Nigerians from Northern Nigeria were taught by Indian teachers, treated by Indian medical doctors and grew up wearing Indian clothing and watching Indian movies in the 1970s to 1990s.
“The enormous goodwill earned by Indians can invariably be felt in interactions with the government and the civil society.
“Both countries were in the forefront of international anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle and closely collaborated in various international fora.
“The presence of a large Indian expatriate community of about 50,000, the largest in West Africa, adds value to the importance of our long-standing relationship,” Thakur said.
He particularly recalled that Nigeria and India had a long-standing relationship that began before the British colonial times which had translated to the exchange of professionals into Nigeria.
“Today is a very special day because it is not only the 78th anniversary of the India Republic Day. We are also marking the 60th year of Nigeria and India relationship; in fact, our relationship is age-old and started before independence.
“ At the beginning of British colonial times, a lot of Indian professionals, such as teachers and doctors, entered Nigeria.
“We also exchanged students, cultural troops, political delegations and capacity building programmes.
“So, we have a very vibrant relationship and I must say that in all of this, Nigeria and India are each others’ strategy partners and have a close security relationship as well,” he said.
He said that India was proud to have a robust relationship that saw three Nigerian Presidents benefiting from `Indian Defense High Tech Programme’.
He added that India was Nigeria’s largest trading partner globally, while Nigeria was India’s trading partner in Africa.
Thakur added that Indian companies were the second largest employers of labour in Nigeria after Nigerian government, saying that Indian corporate interests were scattered around education, tourism, medical tourism and business.
“The relationship grows stronger by the years. As Nigeria and India economies grow, our external engagement will also grow, and we will have more to learn from each other and more to gain from each other,” he said.
“The year 2020 has a whole lot of initiatives, but the most important will be the Fourth India Africa Investment Summit.
“The last one was in October 2015; it was attended by President Muhammadu Buhari. We look forward to the next summit which will be holding later in the year.”
Other side attractions included children recitation and songs by some of the members of the Indian community.
Edited By: Nick Nicholas/Ephraims Sheyin
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