7 PM | South African President’s Visit to India/ India-South Africa Issues: | 31 January, 2019

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Context: South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was the Chief Guest at India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations.

Historical background:

  • India’s relations with South Africa date back several centuries. Shared colonial legacy and post-independence development experience has framed India’s relationship with Africa.
  • India and South Africa’s relations are anchored in common ideals, ideas, interests, and icons – like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
  • India was at the forefront in support of antiapartheid movement; it was the first country to sever trade relations with the apartheid Government in 1946.
  • India’s relations with South Africa were restored after a gap of over four decades in May 1993 after the ban on African National Congress was lifted.
  • India and South Africa established their strategic partnership in March 1997 during state visit of Nelson Mandela to India.
  • But India’s substantive presence in Africa remained marginal as it remained focused on its own periphery through much of the Cold War period.
  • Since the end of the Cold War and propelled by China’s growing profile in Africa, India is re-invigorating its ties with the African continent.

Recent visit:  

  • Chief guest: South African President visited India as a chief guest during 70th Republic Day celebrations. Mr. Ramaphosa addressed the first Gandhi-Mandela Memorial Freedom Lecture in New Delhi. This year is significant as it marks the 150thanniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and the 100thanniversary of Nelson Mandela.
  • India and South Africa, though, have signed many agreements but their implementation has been slow. This time a three-year strategic programme of cooperation aimed at implementation in a time-bound manner has been signed between two countries.
  • Three-Year Strategic Programme of Cooperation’ (2019-2021): It would boost cooperation in areas such as agro-processed goods, defence procurement, mining equipment, trade and investment, technology and financial services, including insurance.
  • Defence, trade and S&T: India and South Africa held discussions on cooperation in defence & security, trade and investment, S&T, education and multilateral forums.
  • Skill development: India is partnering in South Africa’s skill development efforts and Gandhi-Mandela Skills Institute is set to be established soon in Pretoria.
  • IORA and Blue economy: India and South Africa agreed on measures to further strengthen IORA and specifically to enhance cooperation to harness the potential of the Blue Economy within the IORA framework.
  • Exploration of synergies: Agreement has been signed between two countries to link research institutions of India and South Africa to conduct joint research and dialogue in 1.5 track format (i.e. involving officials and experts) on “areas to further promote practical cooperation with Africa.”

India –South Africa collaboration:

  • Multilateral collaboration: Apart from cooperation in UN Security Council, both countries are members of BRICS, G20, Indian Ocean Rim Association, IBSA etc.
  • Bilateral Trade: Trade between India and South Africa is on the up-swing, and had crossed the $10-billion mark in 2017-18. In 2016, both countries set a target of doubling bilateral trade and investment to $20 billion by 2021.
  • India is among South Africa’s top five trading partners and there are around 1.5 million Indian-origin people in South Africa.
  • South Africa participated as a partner country in the “Vibrant Gujarat” summit held this year.
  • Defence collaboration: South African public enterprise, Denel, was allowed last year to participate in the procurement of military equipment by India. Defence cooperation extends to other areas too: maritime security, joint training exercises on sea and land, and provision of training facilities.

Issues between India and South Africa:

  • Restrictive South Africa’s visa regime: Business visa process in South Africa is time consing and long drawn process which hampers trade and investment climate in South Africa.
  • China’s growing proximity: South Africa is second largest recipient of investments from China in Africa and China is S.Africa’s biggest trading partner with annual trade at $40 billion in 2017.
  • Connectivity: Lack of adequate number of direct flights between both countries is a drag on enhancing trade and commerce.
  • Non-implementation of MoUs: Though India and South Africa have signed MoUs in almost all the fields but mostly these agreements have remained on paper due to lack of review mechanism.

Potential areas of cooperation:

  • Gems and jewellary: An important collaboration between the two countries could be in the gems and jewellery sector. Both countries could explore avenues for direct procurement of diamond.
  • Start-ups and IT: India could also partner with South Africa in start-ups, health care and pharma, bio-tech, IT and IT-enabled sectors.
  • Blue economy, energy, agriculture: Two countries could enhance cooperation in the field of the Oceans Economy, the energy sector- including renewable energy, oil and gas, mining, agro-processing and fisheries, defence procurement etc.
  • Visa regime: Simplification of South Africa’s rigid business visa regime is needed to boost business climate and tourism.
  • Connectivity: Operating direct flights between both countries for easing trade and people-to-people exchanges and South-South cooperation.
  • Indian Ocean security: Both India and South Africa are located at strategic locations in Indian Ocean due to which security in Indian Ocean is a common priority for both.
  • IBSA vs BRICS: India Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) grouping has been ‘displaced’ by the larger grouping, BRICS, in recent years. Considering the deepening relation between South Africa and China, of lately, it would be prudent for India to revive the IBSA forum (which excludes China) by hosting the much-delayed IBSA summit this year.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/getting-back-on-track/article26131173.ece

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