Ratcheting up their traditional ties, India and South Africa on Friday agreed to deepen engagement in key areas of defence production, manufacturing, mining and minerals while vowing to cooperate “actively” in dealing with issues at multilateral fora.
After extensive talks with South African President Jacob Zuma, Prime Minister Narendra Modi projected India as an attractive destination for manufacturing of defence equipment and platforms and said both countries can join hands in not only meeting needs of each other but also to respond to regional and global demand.
South Africa is a major player in defence production globally. During the meeting, Modi thanked President Zuma for South Africa’s support to India’s membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. “We know that we can count on the active support of our friends, like South Africa,” he said. There were reports that South Africa was among the countries which had reservations about India’s bid to join the 48-nation grouping.
Holding that ties between India and South Africa have been a story of strong advances and concrete achievements, Modi said there was potential to ramp up cooperation in trade and investment, especially in areas of minerals and mining, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and information technology. In a joint press interaction with Zuma, Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi and said he belongs as much to India as to South Africa.
“For me personally, this visit is an opportunity to pay homage to two of the greatest human souls to have ever walked this Earth — Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela,” said Modi. Referring to opportunities in the defence and security sector, Modi said companies from both countries can pool their capacities to jointly develop or manufacture defence equipments and platforms.
“Beyond economic ties, and links of business, trade and investment, we can also partner in the field of defence and security. Both, at the level of industry and for our strategic and security needs,” he said. He said that the defence sector in India is one of the sectors witnessing a complete transformation and that it offers exciting opportunities.
“Our companies can also pool their capacities to jointly develop or manufacture defence equipments and platforms. And, not just to meet our defence needs, but also to respond to regional and global demand,” he said. Modi said that India and South Africa were also working together to shape priorities of international agenda through IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS.
“I look forward to welcoming President Zuma in Goa for the BRICS Summit later this year, in October.” Referring to closeness between India and South Africa, Modi said though it was his first first visit, “I already feel at home in this Rainbow Nation.” Talking about strong people-to-people ties, he said “We stood together in our common fight against racial subjugation and colonialism.It was in South Africa that Gandhi found his true calling.”
In their talks, Modi and Zuma reviewed the full spectrum of bilateral engagement. “We agreed that in the last two decades, our relationship has been a story of strong advances and concrete achievements. Two way trade has grown by over 300 per cent in last ten years. Indian companies hold strong business interests in South Africa. About one fourth of our investments in Africa are in this country,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he was convinced that industry to industry ties can not only bring rich economic gains to our societies but can give a new shape to our partnership and drive it to new levels. He said that India was ready to share its expertise and capacities for the development of small and medium business in South Africa.
The Prime Minister said he and Zuma agreed on the need to work more closely on international issues and emerging global challenges. “Climate change, and its impact on the world, is our shared concern. We agreed that a large scale effort and focus on renewable energy is needed to address this challenge.
“It was with this in mind that India had led the efforts to form an International Solar Alliance at COP 21 in Paris. I believe that it can be the most effective platform for access to knowledge, technology and finance for promoting solar energy,” he said. Modi thanked Zuma for South Africa’s partnership in the alliance, which already has the support of over 120 countries. Talking about maritime security, Modi said the waters of the Indian Ocean are common sea frontiers of both the countries.
“The Indian Ocean Rim Association has emerged as a key platform of engagement for the maritime neighbours connected by the Indian Ocean. I welcome South Africa’s chairmanship of the organisation for 2017-19,” he said.
In his comments, Zuma welcomed Modi to his “second home” and said both the leaders held discussion on a range of bilateral and international issues including reform of the UN Security Council.
He said both sides will work together in multilateral forums like IBSA, BRICS, G 20, G 77 among others.