India, South Africa ink 3-year plan to execute ‘tie-defining’ projects | India News

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NEW DELHI: In their fourth meeting in a year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday set in motion a “result-oriented” plan of action to take forward bilateral relations in defence and security and trade and investment. Both countries signed a three-year programme for implementing the projects that will define their relationship.

Ramaphosa, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade on Rajpath on Saturday, is here with a 50-member business delegation and presided over a business forum with Modi. A marching contingent from South Africa is to take part in the parade.

Describing it as “new beginnings to old partnerships”, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “PM @narendramodi and South African President @CyrilRamaphosa held wide-ranging talks on cooperation in defence & security, trade & investment, skill development, S&T, education and technical cooperation and multilateral forums.”

In his remarks, Modi said, “Indian companies are taking active part in the efforts of President Ramaphosa to increase investment in South Africa. We are also partners in South Africa’s skill development efforts. The Gandhi-Mandela Skills Institute is set to be established soon in Pretoria. And we both are committed to take these relationships to a new level.”

Ramaphosa’s is the first state visit by a South African president since Jacob Zuma visited in 2010. Zuma visited in 2012 and 2016 for BRICS summits as was Modi’s visit to South Africa in 2018. Modi had visited South Africa in 2016.

President Ram Nath Kovind held a banquet for the visiting leader on Friday evening, capping a day of intensive engagements, including bilateral conversations with Modi and other Indian leaders. Ramaphosa delivered the first Gandhi-Mandela freedom lecture at an event in New Delhi, in the presence of Modi.

With South Africa’s premier defence company, Denel, no longer on the Indian blacklist, India is likely to forge partnerships for weapons supplies. TS Tirumurti, secretary ER in MEA, told journalists at a media briefing that the country’s issues with Denel had been settled in 2018.

India is currently among South Africa’s top five trading partners. Bilateral trade has increased to $10.65billion in 2018-19 from $9.38 billion in 2017-18. Ruchira Kamboj, India’s high commissioner to South Africa, told journalists, “The economic partnership is robust; there are over 150 Indian companies based out of South Africa, employing close to 20,000 locals.

Speaking to South African journalists this week, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu offered free trade pact to South Africa. “We are proposing that we are also willing to have a free-trade agreement with Africa, but… customised to suit the needs of individual African countries because the level of development, population sizes, geography, culture, differs from country to country. Very clearly, there are great opportunities… It is time for Africa to benefit from free trade,” he said.

Tirumurti said it is not often recognized that India and South Africa have an active cooperation on science and technology, having completed 74 projects together. Indian scientists are believed to be playing a key role in the design and development of the Square Kilometre Array project located in the Northern Karoo, aside from working on myriad grass-roots innovation projects with South African scientists.





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