President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state visit to India and his participation in the Republic Day celebrations as Chief Guest presented an opportunity to renew and reinvigorate the mear quarter century of relations between the two countries of Asia and Africa. The partnership between India and South Africa, both advanced and developing countries and emerging economies seek to fulfil larger goals of political freedom, economic development and social justice, not just of the two countries but of their respective regions.
India and South Africa’s relations have to be strengthened because of Africa’s development especially in providing a viable alternative to the China model. Africa presents itself as a major opportunity for the rest of the world with its fast growing and fast prospering population. India has historic ties with several countries of the continent. Their problems and aspirations put India and a variety of African countries on the same side of multinational attempts to tackle global challenges such as climate change, keeping trade open and avoiding big power domination. Through forums like G20, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, BRICS and IBSA, India and South Africa give these efforts an institutional framework.
In the above context, South African President C. Ramaphosa’s visit to India last week was significant. Its value lay in strengthening the people-to-people aspect of bilateral partnership and focusing on the implementation of previous agreements signed by the two governments.
The two counturies discussed an array of issues and their special focus was on higher education and training, arts and culture, home affairs, defence and energy. Due in part to cultural, historical and economic factors, South Africa has been an important partner for India. India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa. Bilateral trade has increased to $10.65 billion in 2018-19 from $9.38 in 2017-18.
The two leaders launched mass campaign to turn around their respective country’s misfortunes with Modi’s 2014 “Make in India” initiative aimed at turning India into a global manufacturing hub and Ramaphosa’s ambitious stimulus plan intended to pump investments into South Africa and create jobs to turn around an ailing economy.
President Ramaphosa announced that South Africa wants to deepen and grow cooperation with India in defence procurement. South Africa’s arms manufacturing company Denel was finally removed from the country’s list of blacklisted companies in 2018. Denel had been barred for 13 years from doing business in India over corruption allegations.
Ramaphosa and Modi say they are satisfied at the steady pace of cooperation in the defence sector which they say includes defence production, joint collaboration manufacturing, research and development, training and joint exercises. The two leaders also witnessed the exchange of two new agreements of cooperation. These formally linked the Research and Information System for Developing Countries, a premier research institute in Delhi and two premier South African think tanks – the Institute for Global Dialogue and the South African Institute of International Affairs. The three institutions have been entrusted with the task to conduct joint research and dialogue in 1.5 track format in areas to further promote practical correlation with Africa.
They also reviewed the existing cordial bilateral relations between South Africa and India and the close cooperation within a number of multilateral groupings including BRICS,IBSA, the G20 and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). A specific decision was to enhance cooperation to harness the potential of the Blue Economy within the IORA framework..
Three of the country’s crucial state-owned enterprises took centre stage as President Ramaphosa wrapped up his state visit to India. He vowed to reinstate South Africa’s direct flight to India to facilitate travel and investment between the two countries. He promised to help strengthen Eskom and paved the way for Denel to get into the lucrative Indian defence market. Specific emphasis in the next three years would be in promoting defence and economic cooperation.
Thus, the visit marked a further strengthening and enhancement of the close relationship between India and South Africa.
Writer is a freelance researcher on International Diplimacy