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Rediff.com  » Business » PM to bridge 45-year gap in ties with Nigeria

PM to bridge 45-year gap in ties with Nigeria

October 12, 2007 18:28 IST

History will revisit the Nigerian capital of Abuja on October 14 when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh arrives there on a three-day visit. Nigeria has not seen an official visit by any Indian prime minister since 1962 when the country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Lagos.

It is quite surprising that despite growing trade links, the two nations have had few top-level bilateral exchanges in the past 45 years.

Petroleum Secretary M S Srinivasan will accompany the prime minister as a representative of India's oil and gas sector. According to sources, wider economic and political relations between the two countries will top the prime minister's agenda though no clear indication was given if energy-related agreements were to be signed with the African nation rich in hydrocarbon.

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma will also accompany Dr Singh.

The prime minister's delegation will also comprise a contingent of businessmen and journalists. The latter were briefed about the visit by external affairs ministry officials at Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi on Friday afternoon.

It is significant to mention here that National Thermal Power Corporation Limited plans to secure LNG supplies from Nigeria to meet fuel requirements for its domestic projects. Recently, NTPC inked an agreement with Nigeria to build two plants in the country in lieu of 3 million metric tons of LNG a year million metric tons of LNG a year.

The visit is significant for development of bilateral trade, which is expected to increase from $7.9 billion (About Rs 30,900 crore to $10 billion (about Rs 39,150 crore) by the end of this year.

During the prime minister's stay at Abuja's Hilton Hotel, Nigerian High Commission will host a reception in his honour on the first day of the visit. Thereafter, Dr Singh will address a joint session of the Nigerian parliament and hold talks with Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua on bilateral issues. A number of MoUs are expected to be signed during this visit.

In South Africa, Dr Singh will visit Johannesburg on October 16. A cultural programme has been organised on the first day. The prime minister and his delegation will proceed to Pretoria on October 17 to take part in the second IBSA summit.

The prime minister will also hold bilateral talks with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil. IBSA is a forum for cooperation among three countries. The first IBSA summit was held in Brazil on September 13 last year.

IBSA provides a forum for consultation and coordination among the three countries on significant political issues. The issues on which IBSA has focused include reform of the United Nations and the Security Council, sustainable development, disarmament and non-proliferation, WTO negotiations, innovative methods of financing and terrorism.

Indrani Roy Mitra in New Delhi