At the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi; President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa was on a State Visit to India. He was the Guest of Honour for Republic Day 2019. President Ramaphosa was accompanied by the South African First Lady Dr. Tshepo Motsepe and a high level delegation including nine Ministers, senior officials of his Government and a 50-member business delegation. This was the first visit to India by President Ramaphosa as Head of State. He is the second President of South Africa after President Nelson Mandela to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day.
President Ramaphosa was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan on 25 January 2019. The President of India Mr. Ram Nath Kovind hosted a State Banquet in honour of the visiting President. The South African President and the First Lady paid his respects to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat whose 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated both nationally and internationally and who has a special resonance in South Africa. Mr. Ramaphosa held bilateral meeting and delegation level talks with the Prime Minister on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. Prime Minister Modi hosted a lunch for the President Ramaphosa.
The South African President along with Prime Minister Modi addressed the India-South Africa Business Forum with the objective to grow business ties between the two countries. The visiting President also delivered the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organized by Indian Council of World Affairs under India Brazil and South Arica (IBSA) framework as a part of the celebrations of the 15th Anniversary of IBSA.
President Ramaphosa accompanied by the First Lady, Dr. Tshepo Motsepe witnessed the Republic Day parade as Guest of Honour on January 26, 2019. They also attended the ‘At Home’ hosted by the President in the afternoon of January 26, 2019 before their departure for South Africa from New Delhi.
India and South Africa enjoy a close and multifaceted strategic partnership since 1997, which is underpinned by historic, cultural and economic linkages. Several high-level visits have been exchanged in the recent past, including visit of Prime Minister for the Brazil Russia India China South Africa (BRICS) Summit in Johannesburg. About 1.5 million Indian Origin People live in South Africa and form an enduring link. Over 150 Indian companies have invested in South Africa employing over 20,000 locals. India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa. The bilateral trade has increased to US $ 10.65 billion in 2018-19 from US $ 9.38 billion in 2017-18. Both countries have close cooperation in the areas of vocational training, capacity building etc. Both countries share a common vision on a range of global issues and closely cooperate in various multilateral fora: UN, BRICS, G-20, Commonwealth, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the India Brazil and South Africa (IBSA).
India and South Africa have traditionally enjoyed good relations since the times of apartheid. In fact, India was the first country to recognise the African National Congress of Dr. Nelson Mandela as a political force in the country. India pioneered the cause of the majority of South African at International fora and called for an end to the apartheid regime.
Since the dismantling of apartheid in early 1990s, India recognised the then government of President Frederick De Klerk and established full diplomatic ties with the ‘rainbow’ nation. Indian welcomed back South Africa into international sports by staging a one-day international cricket series in India. Dr. Mandela travelled to India on his first overseas trip aafter being freed from incarceration. India bestowed her highest civilian honour the Bahrat Ratna to Dr. Mandela. He was also honoured with the Gandhi Peace Prize for his efforts for bringing about reconciliation between the various races of South Africa. New Delhi through its Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) projects is playing a vital role in the development of South Africa.
The visit of the South African President thus, is expected to further strengthen and enhance the close relationship between India and South Africa.
Script: Kaushik Roy, Air: News Analyst