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Military hardware on radar as Rajnath gears up for Nigeria visit

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh taking a close look at a mini drone during an exhibition organised on the sidelines of Army Commanders' Conference, last month (Image courtesy: Twitter/@RajnathSingh)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will spend three days in Nigeria starting Sunday as India continues to deepen its outreach to the African continent.

In what would be the first-ever visit of an Indian Defence Minister to the West African nation, Singh will be in Abuja to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the President-elect of the country.

He will also meet top leaders of the country, including the outgoing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a day before the swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Monday at Abuja’s Eagle Square.

Hailed as an “important landmark” in building strong bonds of friendship, the visit spotlights New Delhi’s commitment to regional unity under the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Quite significantly, it is also expected to herald a new era of defence and security cooperation between the two nations as the top leadership of important Defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) will be accompanying Singh.

“They will hold meetings with the representatives from the Nigerian industry and the Armed Forces to identify the equipment and platforms, through which the Indian defence industry can support the country’s requirements,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Make in India

Nigeria has been grappling with a serious challenge from Islamic terror outfits, including ISIS-West Africa (ISIS-WA) and Boko Haram (BH), especially in its northeast region, for a long time now.

Furthering the narrative of ‘Make in India, Make for the World’, India has offered to fulfil the defence requirements of not just Nigeria but also several African countries which continue to battle conflict, terrorism and violent extremism.

In March, while addressing the ‘India-Africa Army Chiefs’ Conclave’ organised on the sidelines of the second Africa-India Joint Exercise ‘AfiIndex’ in Pune, Singh had assured that India will remain at the forefront of providing training to the Armed Forces of African nations and equipping them with the necessary skills to face the security challenges of the 21st century.

“The Indian defence industry can work with you to fulfil your defence requirements. With the aim to empower our African friends to indigenously meet their defence requirements, we are also committed to sharing our expertise and knowledge in defence manufacturing, research and development,” he said at the event which was attended by army chiefs and representatives of 31 African nations.

Boko Haram
Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria since 2009

India has been contributing significantly to the capacity building of the Nigerian Armed Forces right since its formative years and the Modi government is ready to take this strategic partnership further in years to come through cooperation and co-production in the defence sector.

At the same time, various Indian companies such as state-run defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), Solar Industries, Kanpur-based M Kumar Udyog (MKU), Mahindra Defence, L&T, Bharat Forge, Ashok Leyland, have been keen on expanding India’s defence footprint in Africa.

Both India and Nigeria have also been working on exploring newer research activities and application possibilities in the field of remote sensing of the earth, satellite communication, satellite navigation, space science and exploration of outer space after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) of Nigeria in 2020.

With Nigeria holding the largest natural gas reserves on the continent, New Delhi has been seeking higher crude oil imports from Abuja keeping in consideration the significant expansion in India’s refining capacity.

Also Read: India steps up military ties with Africa, training will be the way forward