Mahesh Sachdev is the Indian high commissioner to Nigeria. In this interview; he speaks on the importance of Indiaâ€™s Independence on August 15 ,1947 to its nationals all over the world, including those in Nigeria. He also lists contributions made by Indians in Nigeria to strengthen the existing relationship especially in health sector and employment generation. Excerpts
By Chinyere Amalu
ON the significance of the Anniversary to Indian nationals all over theÂ world?
Indiaâ€™s independence on August 15,1947 was a landmark event in the contemporary world. In one stroke, Indians â€“ constituting nearly a third of worldâ€™s colonised population – gained independence from the British. Independence of India on August 15, 1947 was also unique because it was achieved by non-violent means which proves to be more powerful than an empire that boosted of not having a sunset.
The Independence Day was also a punctuation mark on our freedom struggle, which as you know, was based on a set of values that went beyond seeking freedom. The Indian freedom fighters under Mahatma Gandhi, â€œFather of Indian Nationâ€,Â were also aspiring for human equality, uplifting of weaker sections of society, inclusive growth and economic emancipation.
It will not be too far to say that in the African continent was intimately linked with Indiaâ€™s independence struggle. In fact, the strategy of Satyagraha and non-violence were first used by Mahatma Gandhi during his struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Independence of India set an example that inspired freedom fighters all over the world, but especially in Africa, including Nigeria. Hence, the relevance of August 15 celebrations to Nigeria and to the rest of the world.
On India/Nigeria relations
Independence is the first stage of national emancipation. It opens the door for the people to develop themselves, find their identity – political, economic and social. We believe that the destines of India and Nigeria are intertwined.Â This was true of our two countries as colonies under the same power and it is even truer of us as independent nations.
Today, we are two large developing countries, with democratic multi cultural societies. These and other shared values enjoin us to work together so as to emerge as two prosperous and harmonious countries at peace within the rest of the world. India and Nigeria have indeed been working together to create significant synergy. Today, India is Nigeriaâ€™s second largest trade partner and Nigeria is our largest trading partner in Africa. Nigerians often compares their country with India and find similarities.
Today, India depends on Nigeria for supply of crude, which is a vital commodity for our economic development. Indian community in Nigeria is only 30,000 strong.
It may be small but it is making significant impact and contribution to Nigeriaâ€™s development. A study few years ago found that Indian community in Nigeria was the second largest job provider for Nigerians. We are very proud of this role. Similarly, Nigerians in India have made very significant contributions, especially to the game of football. We still have a lot to work together, first of all to overcome similar challenges – from poverty to illiteracy. In doing so, we can learn from each otherâ€™s experience.
On the contribution of Indian community in Nigeria to the creation of jobs
The first lot of ethnic Indians have been in Nigeria for over 120 years. After a while, a small number of Indians began setting up various textiles mills in Nigeria employing a large number of Nigerian workers.
When textile sector declined in mid-1980s, Indian businessmen moved to other sectors such as other manufacturing industries, trading and services,Â most of which are employment oriented sectors. In other sectors such as IT and agribusiness, too, Indian companies have opened significant employment opportunities. For example, Olam International works with tens of thousands of Nigerian farmers in product procurement and processing.
On the secret of Indiaâ€™s giant stride in healthcare
I believe that healthcare cooperation between Nigeria and India is quite extensive and has a direct impact on Nigerian masses. Firstly, we are the leader as far as Nigerian pharmaceuticals market is concerned. When a Nigerian citizen fall sick, he is likely to use medicine which may be Nigerian but made by Indian company or which may be Indian imported from India, but packaged in Nigeria.
This contributes to their affordable price. Let me give you example, in 2000, anti-AIDS triple cocktail drug was being offered in Africa by Western pharmaceutical multinationals for 10,000 dollars per year per patient. Today itâ€™s generic version made by Indian companies is available in Africa for 72 Dollars only. Had Indian companies not introduced the generic version of this medicine, most Africans would have been unable to afford it at ten thousand dollars.