The Indian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr, Abhay Thakur, has said Nigeria and India share a lot of similarities, and that it was responsible for the deepening of bilateral ties between India and Nigeria.
Thakur, who is immediate past Indian High Commissioner to Mauritius, spoke in Abuja at a dinner organised in his honour by former Abia State Governor and Senator representing Abia North Senatorial District, Orji Uzor Kalu.
What is your impression about Nigeria?
Nigeria is a large country, with large population, with growing huge potentials, getting on the right track, progressing and moving forward in a manner that is sustainable and acceptable to its people and having a very independent and a very, very autonomous approach to both domestic affairs, home-grown affairs and a very autonomous approach to foreign policy.
And this is something that really brings us together. That is, two large countries, the largest democracy in Africa, the largest population in Africa and the largest economy of Africa. Yes, there are some challenges in terms of security, but let me say that these challenges are there in many parts of the world and we never felt unsafe. We have always felt safe and I think the Indian community which resides here, nearly 50,000, many of them, almost all of them never want to leave Nigeria. And my experience has been very clearly of a country which is very, very important to India, first of all, and secondly, in a certain way, a country very similar to India like I said earlier.
Coming from Mauritius, are you surprised by what you are seeing here in Nigeria?
I am very happy and pleasantly surprised if I may say so because I have found Nigerians to be among the friendliest people I have ever met, to be honest with you, because we have managed to strike a bond with Nigerians from all sections of the society: from people we meet in daily in life and also, very, very senior gentlemen and ladies. So, I think Nigeria is a very friendly country, a very welcoming country. And like I said, yes, there are some challenges in terms of security, but let me say that these challenges are there in many parts of the world and we never felt unsafe here in Nigeria. There are people who have been living here for decades and they keep telling me that sometimes, they decided to leave Nigeria, but then they came back not just the second time, but the third time. And they don’t want to live anywhere else except Nigeria.
How many states do you plan to visit before the end of your tour of duty in Nigeria?
Well, I want to visit all the states, all the 36 states.
Indian’s renewed interest in Nigeria: What informed it?
India has a huge interest in ensuring Africa grows. India is a growing country, a big economy. We will have incidentally, our first visit by our Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, who has just been sworn in. He will be travelling to Nigeria for the Democracy Day and this is something that we are determined to continue and maintain, going forward. There are so many things already on the table – direct flight, double taxation avoidance agreement, more projects, defence collaborations, counter terrorism dialogue; there is a whole range of issues that we are going to get involved in with Nigeria, moving forward.
What is the current volume of trade?
I am happy to report that in 2018, our trade touched nearly $14 billion. In the calendar year, we are the largest trading partner of Nigeria globally and we are proud of the feat.