International Affairs



Your Excellency

Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo

President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of India it gives me very great pleasure to welcome you Mr. President and the distinguished members of your delegation.

Excellency, there are moments when a nation is aware that it has reached a milestone. Tomorrow is such a moment, when, in the first year of the new millennium, we shall celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indian Republic. Your presence, Excellency, as Chief Guest will add lustre to that occasion. It will be the demonstration of India's fraternal relationship with Nigeria and indeed the whole African continent. We are grateful to you for having so kindly accepted our invitation.

I recall that day on 19th November, 1996, when I had the honour of being present as the Vice-President of India while conferring upon you the 1995 Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development. You were then, Excellency, in prison in Nigeria. But Mrs. Stella Obasanjo and your son Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo were with us then. On that occasion I had quoted from what you had said about your approach to public life and leadership. You had said, Excellency, and I quote "My objective in and out of government is to serve the public as best as I can ... I put ordinary people first and I would like them to know that at least I share their main concerns."

Destiny has its own ways, Excellency, of fulfilling its promise. To-day, you are in government and at the helm of democratic Nigeria, the very symbol of the resilience of the spirit of a people in their search for representative government. We in India, believe that it is not a co-incidence that you have been chosen to fulfil this promise. History will recall very few leaders who have voluntarily renounced power, and retired for doing constructive work and service to the people. We pay tribute, Excellency, to your spirit of sacrifice and your role in restoring democracy to Nigeria. As a democracy ourselves, we know that the will of the people will ultimately triumph. But we also recognize the contribution of leadership. In the fragile years after our independence we were fortunate to have a leadership which nurtured democracy. Democracy to-day is a firmly established fact of life in India. Similarly, we believe Nigeria is fortunate in having you as the leader to guide its destiny in the transition from military dictatorship to the full-fledged democracy. We regard Nigeria as one of the natural leaders on the African continent. Its immense size and its rich natural resources combined with its strategic location and its democratic ideology make it a new voice that compels attention as the world moves into the new millennium.

The challenges before India and Nigeria are similar: economic development and the removal of poverty, illiteracy and ill-health from our countries. We acclaim the measures you have initiated for the economic recovery and development of Nigeria "in an air of absolute freedom" as you have put it.

To-day, Excellency, the first requirement for developing countries like India and Nigeria is to meet the aspirations and the rising expectations of our people. We in India are working for peace, progress, stability and peaceful co-existence in our region, just as Nigeria does in her own part of the world. History united us in our struggle against colonialism and apartheid and is bringing us together closely again as countries belonging to the developing world and the nonaligned movement in the struggle for creating a new, equitable and peaceful world order.

Excellency, our bilateral relations are growing at a satisfactory pace. Nigeria is one of India's largest trading partners in Africa. New areas of economic co-operation and investment are opening up and need to be pursued systematically. We believe India's developmental experience, particularly in agriculture, and in the area of small and medium enterprises, could be of relevance to Nigeria's development. We have also made important strides in the fields of information technology, telecommunications, railways and electronics. Our on-going interaction in the area of human resource development is capable of introducing vitality into our co-operation.

It is a matter of enduring satisfaction that many Indian professionals and a large Indian community have found in Nigeria a second home and many of our big companies are involved in the development of Nigeria. The Indo-Nigerian Joint Commission, which I believe, is to shortly meet in Abuja, will provide the appropriate forum to review the entire gamut of our bilateral relations. We are confident that your visit will give added momentum to our co-operation and friendship to new heights of achievement.

Let me end, Excellency, by once again saying how happy we are that you are with us on the historic occasion of our Republic Day.

May I now request all the distinguished guests to raise their glasses in a toast

  • to the personal good health and happiness of His Excellency Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
  • to the prosperity and well-being of the friendly people of Nigeria, and
  • to the friendship between our two countries and peoples.
Thank you

Jai Hind