The Vice President of India, M. Hamid Ansari has said that India is now pursuing a very focused approach to all the different regions of Africa, and his visit to Nigeria and Mali in West Africa was part of that approach. He was addressing the Media Onboard Air India Special Flight on way to a five-day visit to Nigeria and Mali, today.The Vice President recalled an increase in high level visits to Africa in the past one year, placing his visit within the context of sustained engagement with the 54 nations of the continent. He mentioned that India had a long association with the continent, starting from the days of decolonization and that there is a natural sympathy and friendship which India receive in African countries. He further said that in any decision globally, whether in the United Nations or anywhere else, the weight of Africa is always felt.Speaking on India's ties with Nigeria, the Vice President said that the country was the largest in Africa in terms of population, and that it carried significant weight in the region, and in international fora. Its own objectives for the reform of the United Nations were not dissimilar to India's goals. In specific terms, India had a long standing strategic relationship with Nigeria, particularly in the defense field, for training and establishment of training institutions. On the economic side, the Vice President said that India's ties with Nigeria were critical as about 12% of our energy imports come from Nigeria. With more than 100 Indian companies working in the country, including some of the biggest industrial houses, trade and investment was a key aspect of cooperation, and there was an expectation of a fruitful relationship for both countries. The Vice President pointed out that the fact that the President of Nigeria had been invited twice as the Chief Guest for India's Republic Day celebrations was an indication of this political closeness.
On India's ties with Mali, the Vice President said that our government was keen to expand the engagement, given the vast potential for expanding our cooperation. He mentioned the strong development partnership between India and Mali and spoke of the successful implementation of 3 out of the 4 India assisted projects there.Responding to a question of UN Reforms, the Vice President said that although there were obstacles on the path, the reform of the UN Security Council was inevitable. Most of the nations of the world, particularly those in Asia, Africa and South America desired it, as the UN could no longer reflect the world of 1945. He also mentioned the contribution of countries such as India, and Nigeria in the maintenance of international peace and security - these were the principal troop contributors as opposed to the permanent members of the Security Council. So it had become imperative that if the UN was to work as a credible international body, reforms were required.On the issue of terrorism, the Vice President said that it had become a global issue, one that was disturbing social peace and impacting development. It was natural therefore that it constituted an important part of any bilateral discussion - it was in everyone's interest in eliminating this menace and bilateral mechanisms such as intelligence sharing were in place, particularly given that networks of terror had become global.On reported attacks on Nigerian nationals in India, the Vice President said that these were stray incidents and were not specific to citizens of any particular country nor racially motivated. What was however important to note, he stressed was that law enforcement agencies had quickly responded wherever and whenever such incidents had taken place.On India's approach to raising issues of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan with members of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Vice President emphasized that the facts of the issue were pretty clear and that all nations were aware of the problem of state-sponsored terrorism, not just OIC member states. He further stressed that while we engaged bilaterally with OIC states, the organization itself had limited relevance given its consensus based approach of functioning.