India-South Africa ties: Enhancing military, space and economic relations to be the focus

By: | Published: January 22, 2019 9:44 PM

Over 150 Indian companies including Tata, Mahindra, Vedanta and Motherson Sumi have invested in South Africa employing over 20,000 locals.

India, South Africa, Economic relations, Military, Space, Cyril Ramaphosa, Narendra Modi, economy newsPrime Minister Narendra Modi with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Reuters)

A high level delegation including nine Ministers, senior officials of his government and a 50-member business delegation is accompanying the President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa, will arrive on a two day state visit to India from Jan 25-26. Enhanced and greater cooperation in areas including military to military, maritime security, skill development, and agriculture and information technology will be the focus of both bilateral as well as delegation level talks when the visiting leader meets with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jan 25.

With the objective to grow business ties between the two countries and hoping to achieve a trade target of $ 20 bn by 2021, the two leaders will address the India-South Africa Business Forum on Friday. He will also deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organized by Indian Council of World Affairs under IBSA framework as a part of the celebrations of the 15th Anniversary of IBSA.

Over 150 Indian companies including Tata, Mahindra, Vedanta and Motherson Sumi have invested in South Africa employing over 20,000 locals. India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa. The bilateral trade has increased to $ 10.65 billion in 2018-19 from $ 9.38 billion in 2017-18, growing steadily from S$4.7 billion in 2007 to the present. The total trade reached a peak of $15 billion in 2012 – before the global economic slowdown and domestic political factors put a brake on the rapid expansion.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), President Ramaphosa accompanied by the First Lady, Dr. Tshepo Motsepe will witness the Republic Day parade as Guest of Honour and later attend the ‘At Home’ hosted by the President Ram Nath Kovind later in the day before departing for South Africa. He is the second President of South Africa after President Nelson Mandela to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day.

As reported by FE ONLINE earlier, South Africa’s active involvement in multilateral organizations, such as the IBSA Forum (IBSA), the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP), the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IORARC), and the annual BRICS Summits has helped in the partial recovery in bilateral trade.

In the defence sector, South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel is looking for opportunities to tie up with Indian companies in the defence sector. As reported earlier, Denel is suited for ammunition supplies to the armed forces in which Indian companies have to create new facilities. Denel was one of the prime contenders for small arms, ammunition and artillery programs in the 1980s in India.

The two countries are also working together through IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The two sides are also keen on better connectivity as currently there are no direct flights and with direct flights both trade and tourism will improve between the two countries.

Both countries have close cooperation in the areas of vocational training, capacity building etc. And the two share a common vision on a range of global issues and closely cooperate in various multilateral fora: UN, BRICS, G-20, Commonwealth, IORA and the IBSA.

South Africa is also a member of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) an extremely significant regional maritime security initiative launched by India in February 2008 under the aegis of the Indian Navy. This seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the IOR (Indian Ocean Rim) by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.

The visiting leader accompanied by First Lady will pay his respects to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated both nationally and internationally and who has a special resonance in South Africa.

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