By fabulous reporter
Nigeria and India have taken significant steps to reinforce their maritime collaboration, aiming to bolster security in the Gulf of Guinea. This strengthened naval alliance encompasses joint training, interoperability, hardware exchanges, and port visits, marking a pivotal moment in their enduring relationship.
In his welcome speech during a goodwill visit by the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Sumeda in Lagos, the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Mustapha Bala Hassan emphasized the importance of such visits in enhancing the friendship, cooperation, and interoperability between Nigeria and India.
He highlighted that the collaboration between the two countries plays a crucial role in bolstering national security, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea region. Rear Admiral Hassan stressed the alignment of this cooperation with the vision of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla to improve security in the maritime domain.
“We’ve had a very beautiful relationship with India, which has spanned over five decades. The Navy, in particular, has had a good relationship encompassing training support, hardware exchanges, port visits, and joint exercises,” Rear Admiral Hassan remarked. He expressed optimism that the visit by INS Sumeda would further consolidate the security gains in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Rear Admiral highlighted the long-standing cordial relationship between Nigeria and India, extending to both navies. This relationship has been characterized by fruitful collaborations, training, interoperability, hardware exchanges, and port calls. He noted that Port calls by Indian Navy ships, such as INS Trishu and INS Takash, have been frequent, contributing to improved maritime security in Nigeria’s waters. These collaborations align with the CNS’s vision of shaping security outcomes in the maritime domain.
Rear Admiral Hassan acknowledged the training exchanges with the Indian Navy but expressed the need for a more balanced exchange, as more Indian students could benefit from Nigerian training institutions. He encouraged the Indian Navy to consider sending more students to Nigeria for training.
Rear Admiral Hassan expressed eagerness to discuss ways to improve interoperability, naval infrastructure, local shipbuilding, and other areas of cooperation during the visit.
In a demonstration of the enduring relationship between India and Nigeria, India’s Defence Attaché, Colonel Romi Singh Legha extended his heartfelt appreciation for the warm welcome and valuable interaction during his visit. The dialogue served as a testament to the deep-rooted partnership between the two nations, which spans several decades.
Colonel Legha acknowledged the rich history of relations between Nigeria and India, with India taking the significant step of establishing its high commission in Nigeria two years before the country’s independence in 1958.
He informed that in the early years of collaboration, India played an instrumental role in setting up the Nigerian Defence Academy and the Naval Academy in Port Harcourt. Notably, the initial commandants of these institutions were from India, with Brigadier Verma, in particular, remembered as the pioneer commandant of the Nigerian Defence Academy for its first two years.
Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program, India and Nigeria have engaged in numerous interactions. Every year, approximately 150 courses are offered under this program, with the Nigerian Navy benefiting from around 45 to 50 courses annually. This fully funded scheme, which includes travel to and from India, has seen the training of over 75,000 officers and men from the Nigerian armed forces in India. This significant effort is regarded as one of India’s most substantial contributions to capacity building for the Nigerian armed forces.
Regarding the current visit, Colonel Legha shared that India’s naval vessel, INS Sumedha, has been deployed in the region for approximately 20 days. This deployment goes beyond mere port calls, as operational deployment and anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea are part of the mission.
He acknowledged that due to the collective efforts of the Nigerian Navy and other regional navies, piracy in the region has been notably reduced. In fact, the past year saw a significant decline in piracy incidents, marking a substantial achievement for all involved.
INS Sumedha’s mission also includes exercises and interactions with navies from other countries in the region, such as Ghana, Togo, Senegal, and Algeria. These initiatives are part of a broader effort to enhance cooperation, foster interoperability, and strengthen the bonds between Nigeria and India in the defense realm.
The visit by Colonel Romi Singh Legha and INS Sumedha underscores the commitment of both nations to fortify their defense ties, contributing to peace, security, and maritime stability in the Gulf of Guinea and beyond.
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