Abuja: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed confidence that India can continue to sustain a growth rate of between 9 and 10% which offers limitless opportunities to overseas communities to contribute their mite towards it.
“India has entered an exciting new phase. It is a vibrant and self-confident nation. I invite you all to contribute your spirit, endeavour and enterprise in the service of your homeland,” he told the Indian community at a reception hosted in his honour here late Sunday night.
Singh is the first Prime Minister to make a bilateral visit to Nigeria after the trip made by the late Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962. Indian business and industry are the second largest employer in Nigeria.
He said India and Nigeria shared many commonalities and historical experiences and common developmental challenges have brought the two countries close.
“We share common hopes and aspirations. India is the largest democracy in the world and Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa. We are both multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual countries governed by systems of plural democracy,” he said.
Singh said India’s partnership with Nigeria and with Africa is important for his country. “We now seek to build on the goodwill that exists between us to shape a strong contemporary partnership that is multi-faceted and mutually beneficial.”
Singh said he looked forward to holding extensive discussions Nigerian President Yar’Adua and his colleagues and to addressing the National Assembly, which he said was a unique honour.
India, the Prime Minister said, as a people valued the virtues of tolerance and co-existence among cultures, languages, religions, political and social views and different ways of life.
“I believe that this background has something to do with the remarkable adaptability and resilience of Indian communities all over the world.”
In a veiled reference to security concerns of Indians living here, the Prime Minister said the Indian government attached the highest importance to the safety and security of its citizens living abroad.
“We have been assured at the highest levels of the host government that this is a matter that is being given high priority. Our missions will offer all necessary assistance to our citizens in distress,” Singh said.
The visit comes just days after the abduction of 11 Indian nationals, working for a steel firm in central Nigeria’s Kogi state, who were released on October 11 after two days in captivity.
Before leaving for the country, Singh had said in New Delhi that his visit to Nigeria signified India’s desire to “re-invigorate its ties with not only our friend and brother” Nigeria but the entire African continent.
Singh, who is here on the first leg of his two-nation tour of Africa, will stay in Nigeria for three days.
Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe earlier told reporters that the visit is aimed at consolidating bilateral ties, especially in trade and investment.
“It is a consolidation of bilateral ties. It is also another step in the consolidation of our ties in the multilateral field in view of our common membership and active collaboration in the UN, the Non-Alligned Movement, G-77, and the Commonwealth,” Maduekwe said.
“While oil is a major trade component, we are looking forward to expanding trade and investment potentials,” the minister said.
Maduekwe said three cooperation agreements are expected to be signed, including one between their foreign ministries.
India established diplomatic ties with Nigeria in 1958, two years before the former British colony won its independence.