African sojourn: PM arrives in Abuja on five-day African tour

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Abuja, Oct 14: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here this afternoon on a two-nation, five-day African tour, to revitalise historic and broad-ranging ties with Nigeria and participate in the Second India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday. In a departure statement in New Delhi, Dr Singh said, ''I will be visiting Nigeria at the invitation of His Excellency President Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. It plays a leadership role in West Africa and within the African Union. It is an active member of the Commonwealth, NAM, G-77 and the UN. It is also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Conference.'' As two developing countries with a similar historical experience, India and Nigeria face common challenges of nation-building.

''Our relationship is marked by a convergence of interests and reflects our mutual commitment to South-South Cooperation. A vibrant Indian community in Nigeria contributes to the socio-economic development of Nigeria,'' Dr Singh said.

The Prime Minister said,''I look forward to the opportunity of addressing the Joint Session of the National Assembly of Nigeria. I regard this as a great honour to India. My journey to Nigeria signifies India's desire to reinvigorate its ties not only with our friend and brother Nigeria, but also the continent of Africa. There is much that India and Africa have to do together for the betterment of our peoples.'' He said,''I also look forward to participating in the second India-Brazil-South. Africa (lSSA) Summit which is being hosted by President Thabo Mbeki in South Africa. The ISSA process has matured over time. It symbolises the coming together of like-minded countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America for the good of humankind.'' ''The Summit has a rich agenda. It will be preceded by an Academic Seminar, a Business Seminar, a Women's Forum and a Parliamentary Forum.

Along with the leaders of Brazil and South Africa, I hope to review the substantial progress that has been made in expanding our trilateral cooperation, which now covers a wide range of activities.

I expect the Summit to lead to concrete outcomes on both global and trilateral issues,'' the Prime Minister added.

Dr Singh concluded by saying,'' I look forward to the opportunity of separately meeting President Mbeki and President Lula. India enjoys close and warm relations with South Africa and Brazil, which I will seek to further strengthen.'' Dr Singh will be on a three-day trip to Nigeria on the first leg of the tour, which aims at expanding economic, energy and political relations with the country, a leading nation of the African Union.

The Prime Minister will address the joint session of the Nigerian Parliament, the Senate and the House of Representatives, tomorrow and hold extensive discussions with Nigerian President Yar' Adua on issues of regional and multilateral interest.

Dr Singh's visit to the country is the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the most populous African country since 1962 when Jawaharlal Nehru was on a state visit to Lagos.

The Second Summit of IBSA, the fledgling tri-nation grouping of the major economies of Asia, Latin America and Africa, is expected to provide a framework for mutual cooperation in various fields and a forum for interaction on regional and multilateral issues besides South-South cooperation.

UNI

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