By Amit Agnihotri
New Delhi: India today partnered with Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, to carry out research and development in space science, exploration of planets, ground stations and development of micro and mini satellites.
The two countries signed an agreement that provides for capacity building assistance by India’s premier space research agency the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which will exchange scientific know-how, conduct exchanges between academic institutes and hold joint symposiums/conferences.
Cooperation in remote sensing, communications and navigation will benefit Nigeria in the fields of forestry, environment, agriculture, mining, watershed development and connectivity.
Nigeria is India’s largest trading partner in Africa while the South Asian country is Nigeria’s largest trading partner globally with bilateral trade turnover in the financial year 2019-2020 and 2018-2019 being at least $13 billion.
Cumulative Indian and Indian-origin and -owned investment in Nigeria stands at $19.3 billion, and Indian and Indian-origin companies are among the largest employers in the West African nation. Also, as much as 10 percent of India’s energy needs are met by Nigeria.
“As Africa’s most-populous country and largest-economy, Nigeria is at the centre of our vision of India’s engagement with Africa,” India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan said.
The two countries will also sign a subsidiary pact between New Space India Limited (NSIL) that functions under ISRO and the Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project (NEWMAP), under the Federal Ministry of Environment of Nigeria, to cooperate in use of geo-spatial technologies.
India and Nigeria have long-standing and deep-rooted relations and share similar historical experiences against colonisation.
The ties between the two countries have diversified from traditional areas such as trade and economy to defence and security while people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges too have gained momentum in recent years due to a vibrant India diaspora in Nigeria and the Nigerian community residing in India.
The two countries have similar approaches to various international issues and work closely in the international fora including the United Nations.
India extended all help to Nigeria during the COVID-19 pandemic and is ready to play its part in meeting the challenge of supply disruptions in food and medicines, India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishakar had told Foreign Minister of Nigeria Geoffrey Onyema when they spoke in April 2020.
Muraleedharan witnessed the signing of the pact for space cooperation through video link while Minister of Science and Technology, Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr Ogbonnaya Onu was present at the event in capital Abuja.
ISRO Chairman Dr K. Sivan had earlier signed the agreement while Nigeria’s National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Director General Dr Francis Chizea signed the memorandum of understanding today.
ISRO Scientific Secretary R. Umamaheswaran too joined in through video link from ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, capital of India’s southern state Karnataka.
Over the past 12 years, 49 Nigerian nationals have attended various short-term Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) courses in India in the fields of remote sensing, GIS and Geo-informatics, conducted by the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing at Dehradun; Geological Survey of India Training Institute at Hyderabad; and Centre for Development of Advanced Computing at Noida.
India had recently opened up its space sector for private players.