PM Narendra Modi meets South Africa President, discusses ways to boost bilateral ties

Johannesburg: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday met South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the two leaders discussed ways to expand the bilateral ties in a number of sectors, including trade and investment, IT and defence.

Following the delegation-level talks between Modi and Ramaphosa, three MoUs were signed on cooperation in exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, setting up of Gandhi-Mandela Centre of specialisation for artisan skills and agricultural research and education. Modi, who arrived here yesterday, met Ramaphosa on the sidelines of the two-day BRICS summit whose theme this year is ‘BRICS in Africa’.

“Kicking off a series of bilateral meetings on the sidelines of BRICS! PM Narendra Modi meets the host South African President Cyril Ramaphosa,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in a tweet. “Saluting the enduring legacy of Mahatma and Mandela! Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa jointly released a stamp commemorating the two iconic personalities,” he tweeted.

India and South Africa are celebrating 21 years of strategic partnership. “India and South Africa are proud inheritors of legacies of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela,” Kumar said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Cyril Ramaphosa discussed expansion of our relationship in trade and investment, agriculture and food processing, IT, defence and people-to-people contacts,” he said. Later, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said both the nations expressed satisfaction at the growth in trade and investment, besides improvement in the people-to-people relation.

“President Ramaphosa actually said India-South Africa relations may be new in terms of re-establishment of diplomatic relations but are in fact very deep-rooted in history. Now what it requires is nurturing, it needs to be watered time to time and such meetings help in that process,” he said. Gokhale said Prime Minister Modi entirely agreed with the South African leader on this, and noted a “very positive” trend on investments and trade.

The Prime Minister said Indian companies would respond positively to investing in South Africa, as he welcomed the Indo-South African business summit, held in April, for which the Commerce and Industries minister had come here. Prime Minister Modi also took up the issue of Indian business persons facing some obstacles in terms of general work permits and inter-company transfer permits in South Africa.

“These are long standing issues that the prime minister took up,” Gokhale said, adding that the South African President has assured he would look into the matter. The Prime Minister, he said, informed Ramaphosa that India has already liberalised the visa regime “very greatly” for South Africans. On trade, Modi said among the areas which the South African companies should be exploring in india were defence food processing and health insurance, according to Gokhale. During the “very productive, very good and very warm” meeting, Modo also mentioned about the visit of the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Tarini with an all-female crew to South Africa.

“The President of South Africa in fact remarked that this (INS Tarini visit) had got very good publicity in the South African press and was seen as a sign of gender empowerment, women empowerment,” the Foreign Secretary said. BRICS is a grouping of five major emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC”, before the induction of South Africa in 2010.

India’s relations with South Africa date back several centuries. India was at the forefront of the international community in its support to the anti-apartheid movement. This year also marks 25 years since the resumption of India’s diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1993. This year also marks the 125th year of the Pietermaritzburg railway station ‘incident’ involving Gandhi. “2018 is a historical year for our relations, as it marks the commemoration of twenty-five years of diplomatic relations between South Africa and India,” the South African Presidency tweeted. The South African Indian-origin community numbers around 1.5 million and constitutes about three per cent of South Africa’s total population.

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