South African President, chief guest at Republic Day parade

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    Pratibha bissht

    President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Chief Guest at the 70th Republic Day celebrations on January 26. This is the second time a South African Head of State is Chief Guest for Republic Day. The first occasion was in 1995 when the late Nelson Mandela visited. President Ramaphosa is visiting for the first time to India as the head of state. Mr Ramaphosa was invited to be the chief guest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two leaders met on G20 summit in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.
    India was the first country to sever trade relations with the apartheid government and subsequently imposed a complete diplomatic, commercial, cultural and sports embargo on South Africa. India worked consistently to put the issue of apartheid on the agenda of the UN, NAM and other multilateral organizations and for the imposition of comprehensive international sanctions against South Africa. The African National Congress (ANC) maintained a representative office in New Delhi from the 1960s onwards.
    In March 1997, during the visit of President Mandela to India, the two countries signed the historic Red Fort Declaration for Strategic Partnership between India and South Africa.
    India’s has had fairly flourishing commercial relations with South Africa since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1993. However, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address to the India – South Africa Business Forum despite bilateral trade having been on the upswing having crossed the $10 billion mark in 2017-18, there is great potential still. India and South Africa enjoy a close and multi faceted strategic partnership since 1997.
    India is South Africa’s fifth largest export destination and fourth largest import origin and is the second largest trading partner in Asia. Both countries are working to boost trade volumes in the coming years.
    in May 2018 around 140 Indian companies have invested close to $4 billion in South Africa, there by creating direct employment for over 18,000 people. The leading Indian companies are Wipro, Coal India, Cipla, HCL Technologies, Tata Motors, Zomato, Mahindra and Mahindra, Vedanta, and Motherson Sumi. South African companies which have invested in India are SASOL, First Rand, Old Mutual, ACSA, Shoprite and Nandos.
    South Africa is home to the highest number of Indian Diaspora in the African continent, with a total strength of 1,218,000 there by constituting 3 percent of South Africa’s total population. Since 2003 onwards, India celebrates Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) each year on 9th January . 9th January is the day when Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa to India. Various mini PBDs are also held regionally. The fourth in the series called ‘PBD Africa’ was held in Durban, South Africa, on October 2010. This event also marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indian in South Africa.
    Modi said,“As a brotherly nation, India will be happy to share its experience in policy reforms and setting up ground level agencies. We encourage even more investment by Indian companies in South Africa and are confident that more South African companies will also enter the Indian market.”
    India could also partner with South Africa in start – ups, health care and pharma, bio – tech, IT and IT enabled sectors.
    Another important collaboration between both the countries could be in the gems and jewelry sector. Both countries could explore avenues for direct procurement of diamonds.
    India and South Africa sealed a three year strategic programme covering all aspects of bilateral ties. The strategic programme will cover cooperation in a range of areas, including defence and security, trade and investment, the blue economy, tourism, IT and agriculture.
    South Africa participated as the Partner Country in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit held this year.
    And 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.
    Nearly 150 Indian companies are present in South Africa, including some of the prominent companies and business entities of India. They have invested around USD 9 to10 billion and created around 20 thousand jobs locally. Trade between India and South Africa has also increased to USD10.7 billion in 2017-18 with an increase of about 13percent over the previous year, the statement further read.
    The two sides are also keen on better connectivity as currently there are no direct flights and with direct flights both trade and tourism will improve between the two countries.
    The minister said the Indians’ average length of stay went up by 7.7 percent and total bed nights by 4 percent. India being one of the top sources of tourism for South Africa.

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