In the first half of 2016, President Mukherjee and Vice President Ansari visited the country. Modi’s visit to four nations on the eastern coast of Africa was in line with the government’s renewed focus on Africa. Out of the four countries, the visit to South Africa clearly stands out.
Though various ministers and prime ministers of the previous governments have frequently been visiting South Africa on one pretext or another, this purely bilateral visit, not attached to any regional meet or ANC celebrations, sought to strengthen bilateral ties in multiple areas.
South Africa remains critical for us for several reasons. First, its geostrategic location on the east coast of Africa makes it an indispensable ally for us in high sea piracy combating, and in obtaining a favorable balance of power in the Arabian Sea given China’s plan to have a military presence there.
Support for UNSC membership...
Secondly, South Africa, like us, is an aspirant for the permanent membership of the Security Council from Africa under the new reforms. We have expressed our support to its candidature overlooking Nigeria’s claim for the slot. Little wonder South Africa has assured its support to our candidature.
Thirdly, South Africa is a prominent member of various regional economic platforms like IBSA, BRICS, IORA, G-20, etc. where our economic interests lie.
Most importantly, bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries has been, on the whole, good. More than 150 Indian companies are present there including the Tatas, Ranbaxy, Cipla, Apollo Tyres, several IT companies and Indian banks. In 2003, both countries pledged to take bilateral trade to USD 15 billion by 2015. The business showed a satisfactory trend till 2011-12 when it touched US $ 14.7 billion but sharply declined to less than $9.5 billion last fiscal. This fall must be arrested through a high-level visit with a strong business delegation from India.
Last, but not the least, a sizable community of persons of Indian origin are settled in that country for more than a century and continue playing an important role in the development of the economy of the country.
Thus PM Modi’s visit has been quite fruitful and has opened doors for accelerated cooperation. However, one expects such cooperation in more areas like medical tourism, young entrepreneurs’ exchange programme, development of highways, exchange of more technical know-how in the mining sector which is SA’s strength. This visit has raised hopes for more intensified economic cooperation.
- The CEOs’ Forum, organized on the sidelines of the visit, resulted in the signing of eight MOUs between the business houses of the two countries.
- For the first time, South Africa’s prowess in defence production was recognized by us with the signing of MoU between SAAS Cryntec Defence and Tata Power to manufacture Land Electronic Defence System in India. With the opening of investment in the defence sector, this is in line with the government’s policy of Make in India and is a step forward in self-sufficiency in defence production.
- Cipla and Dube Trades Port of South Africa have signed MoU for setting up a Bio-similar plant in South Africa at the cost of US$ 124 million.
- In mining, Hindustan Zinc has signed two MoUs, one for the supply of rock sulphate system and the other for supply of mining equipment.
- MMI, S.A., and Aditya Birla Nuvo have agreed to join hands in the health and insurance space.
- Ion Exchange Safic would be working with Stefanutti Stocks SA for assisting in water and effluent treatment in South Africa.
- Pioneer Global Enterprises of India and Armscor SA have signed MoU for the production of ultrasonic broken railway detection system in India.
- Gorden Institute for Business Science and Indian School of Business, Hyderabad will jointly organize senior executive programs.