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Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) on upcoming visit of President of South Africa to India (January 24, 2019)

January 25, 2019

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namaskar, Good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing on the visit of the President of South Africa to India from 25 – 26 January, 2019.

The President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa is the Chief Guest for the Republic Day this year. To do the briefing on the visit I have with me Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti, our High Commissioner to South Africa Ruchira Kamboj Ji and Jt. Secretary (E&SA), Dr. Neena Malhotra. Over to Secretary (ER).

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Friends, thank you very much for coming here. President of South Africa His Excellency, Cyril Ramaphosa will be on a state visit to India on 25 and 26 January 2019.

He is the Chief Guest of our 70th Republic Day Parade. This is the second time when a South African President will be our Chief Guest for the Republic Day. The legendary leader Nelson Mandela was the Chief Guest of our Republic Day in 1995. This is the first visit of President Ramaphosa to India after he assumed office in South Africa in February 2018.

Prime Minister and President of South Africa have met on three occasions last year, in the margins of CHOGM, London in April 2018, for the BRICS Meeting in July 2018 in Johannesburg and later in G20 in Buenos Aires.

It will be recalled that during the visit of Prime Minister to South Africa in July 2016 His Excellency Ramaphosa had called on Prime Minister as the then Deputy President of South Africa.

As regards the program for the visit President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by the First Lady and nine senior Ministers of his cabinet in addition to senior officials and a large 50-member business delegation.

President Ramaphosa will arrive in New Delhi on Friday, 25 January 2019. He will be given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan. He will visit Rajghat to pay respect to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

Prime Minister Modi will hold delegation level talks with President Ramaphosa and his delegation at Hyderabad House. Their discussions are expected to cover a wide range of areas of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interests. Prime Minister will host a lunch in honor of the visiting dignitary in Hyderabad House.

In the afternoon of 25th January President Ramaphosa will deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organized by the Indian Council of World Affairs under the IPSA framework as a part of the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of IPSA.

You would recall that South Africa last year celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of Nelson Mandela and India is celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. President of of South Africa and Prime Minister will address the India-South Africa Business Forum in the afternoon of 25th January.

Later that evening Hon’ble Rashtrapati Ji will be hosting a banquet in honor of the visiting dignitary and his delegation at Rashtrapati Bhawan. On 26th January President of South Africa will attend our 70th Republic Day celebrations as our Chief Guest. He will also join At-Home Reception at Rashtrapati Bhawan and will depart later in the evening for South Africa on 26th January. The visit of South African President is preceded by joint working groups meeting on agriculture, trade & investment and mines.

Friends, this visit is significant both from the point of view of our strategic partnership with South Africa and in the overall context of our enhanced engagement with Africa itself. In the overall context our relations with Africa are at an all-time high. We have over the last more than four years had an unprecedented 29 visits at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister to African countries.

We had numerous incoming visits as well at Head of State and Heads of Government level from Africa to India including during IAFS-III in 2015 and the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance last year. Our overall relations with Africa in defence, security, economic, trade & investment relations, development partnership and capacity building etc. are at an all-time high.

It is in this context that Prime Minister set out the ten guiding principles for our relations with Africa last year the thrust of which is to unlock Africa’s potential through our enhanced engagement. India’s links with the struggle for freedom and justice in South Africa date back to the period of Mahatma Gandhi when he started his Satyagrah movement in South Africa over a century ago.

Considering that we have just concluded historic Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Varanasi as well as celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year, this visit of the President of South Africa has a special resonance.

India and South Africa established their strategic partnership in March 1997 during the state visit of President Nelson Mandela to India. Over the last few years there has been a significant intensification of our engagement in various fields and the relationship has gathered momentum.

Prime Minister’s bilateral visit to South Africa in 2016 infused a new momentum to our relations and strengthened this strategic partnership. He had visited South Africa again in 2018 for the BRICS Summit. EAM also had a very successful visit to South Africa in June 2018. During this visit we hope to agree on a roadmap for taking this strategic partnership forward.

Defence & Security cooperation will continue to be an area of close bilateral cooperation. South African defence industries are looking at our Make In India initiative with renewed interest. India and South Africa have strong interest in maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. India has also extended training slots for South African defence personnel. We share common concerns in the area of terrorism, FATF, cyber-security etc.

India and South Africa’s economic and investment relations have also been very robust. President Ramaphosa, as mentioned earlier, is leading a large 50 member business delegation to India. South Africa is also keen to attract investments and have set a target of $100 billion over the next three years or so.

Nearly 150 Indian companies are present in South Africa which include some of the prominent companies and business entities of India. They have invested around $9-10 billion and created around 20 thousand jobs locally. Trade between India and South Africa has also increased to $10.7 billion in 2017-18 with an increase of about 13% over the previous year.

South Africa was also our partner country at the Vibrant Gujarat 2019 where we also had for the first time an ‘Africa Day.’ There is therefore considerable keenness on both sides to take our economic and investment relationship forward. We are also looking at the simplification of the visa regime on South Africa and we are currently in discussion with South Africa on this.

Capacity building continues to be an important aspect of our engagement with South Africa. During Prime Minister’s visit in 2018 we had signed an MoU for setting up the Gandhi-Mandel Skill Institute and we expect this institute to come up by April-May 2019. India continues its cooperation under ITEC and its scholarship programs.

As you are aware the External Affairs Minister recently launched the e-Vidhyabharati and e-Aarogyabharati initiative which is a tele-education and a tele-health initiative covering all of Africa. This will cover South Africa as well and we are hoping that this initiative will enhance our cooperation in these two important sectors.

The Indian diaspora in South Africa form a living bridge between the two countries. The 1.5 million PIOs in South Africa constitute 2.5% or more of South Africa’s total population. We are pleased that during the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas celebration two prominent South Africans namely Prof. Anil Sooklal and Swami Sardaprabhananda were conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards.

Friends, India and South Africa continue to work very closely in the multilateral fora particularly in BRICS, G20, Commonwealth, IPSA, IORA etc. in addition to the UN and UN Security Council where they have just become members. We appreciate the support which South Africa has given to our candidatures in international organizations. You will recall that they had also held a very successful BRICS Summit in Johannesburg last year.

We are confident that the State Visit of South African President will provide an opportunity to reenergize our mutually beneficial strategic partnership in a focused manner. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you sir. We have time to take few questions.

Question from Wion:
The question is on Indian Ocean. The IORA which is the organization which is being led right now by South Africa, how much is the focus of this Indian Ocean, the Indo-Pacific which India has been talking about?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: See, we have been cooperating very closely on the Indian Ocean Rim. As far as Africa is concerned, which is what the focus of your question would be, we have actually defence cooperation agreements with practically every literal state of Africa in the Indian Ocean and that is primarily to ensure that we work with Africa, we work with African countries in the field of maritime security. And this is precisely what we are also doing with South Africa to ensure maritime security in this area and that is how we see it, the whole concept of IORA which you are referring to.

Question: Can you just give us a sense of any agreements that we are looking at, broad framework without elaborating about specifics?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: There is one very significant agreement which we will be concluding. This is going to be a roadmap which I was mentioning for our strategic partnership and it will be a program of action over three years for our strategic partnership. And this will be significant in the sense that it will capture all the areas where we feel that we should take it forward in a time-bound manner and that I think will be the main one which we will be concluding with South Africa during this visit.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I will take two to three questions at a time.

Question: You spoke about some areas where you hope to implement things in a time-bound manner. Which are these areas that you are looking at, is it defence, one of them?

Question: I want to know if any efforts will be done with talks with South Africa how to energize IPSA?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: I will just take these two questions first. The program of action which we are looking at will cover practically every field. It will include defence & security, it will include our political relations, it will include economic and trade and investment cooperation. For example it will include the Blue Economy, the ocean’s economy as we call it. Tourism will be an important aspect, science & technology will be important.

For example, not many people know really that India and South Africa have completed as many as 74 projects in science & technology over the years and these are in pure sciences like earth sciences, material sciences, chemical sciences, even in astronomy for example and there have been more than 300 exchanges between our two countries on science & technology and we are already working together on certain aspects. IT is another area and agriculture would be another area, we are having the JWG as we speak. So these are all the aspects which we hope to capture in the strategic partnership program and give it a certain roadmap and a time bound roadmap.

As far as IPSA is concerned, there is definitely very focused move to energize IPSA and that is why last year our EAM had in fact been to South Africa and she held the IPSA Foreign Minister’s meeting and therefore since it is the 15th anniversary of IPSA what we have decided is that we will have 15 events during this year in all the three countries and one of the events is going to be the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture. We are soon going to have IPSA related activities. So there is definitely going to be a focus on energizing IPSA that I can assure you.

Question: The blacklisting of Denel was removed in September last year and there have been reports in the media there are going to be several agreements whereby Denel will enter into partnerships with several Indian public and private enterprises and a huge delegation considering which is coming from there, will any agreements for cooperation, collaboration between Denel and Indian entities be taking place, could you throw some light on that?

Question: Just a follow up question, we are just a day away from the meeting so if you could share in what areas are those MoUs, going to be, are there going to be exchanges, academic issues, trade issues, what are the two prime minister’s going to sign agreements on, if any?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: In fact I will address second question first, see we have MoUs in practically every area with South Africa. What we feel now is that we have this strategic partnership but we wanted each of these areas to be taken up with a specific set of things we can do together, so that is what we have focused on. Because for example, even when the PM went for the BRICS Meeting if you recall we even had MoU on the skills institute but Prime Minister also witnessed the signing of an MoU on peaceful use of outer space between ISRO and their institutions.

We have defence agreements, we have science & technology agreements signed years ago. SO what we really needed was a roadmap because in some areas we felt that we can definitely move faster and we also have a huge opportunity in the next two to three years to take this forward. So it is going to be a three year type of program and each of these aspects we are going to have specific action plans that is why it is going to be one important agreement where we have tried to put all these thoughts together and have a comprehensive one that is why I feel that it is going to be a pretty important type of document which would be catch-all document.

As far as Denel is concerned, defence cooperation has always been a very important aspect of our cooperation with South Africa. We have had agreement, as you know, in 1996 and later in 2000 and later as well. Now why I am mentioning this is that, yes there had been this problem of Denel and I am happy that this issue has been settled last year and we are hopeful that Denel and other defence manufacturers, we should also remember that Denel of course is a state manufacturer but there are also private defence companies there with whom we are already doing business for some time.

It is not that it stopped so therefore we are hoping that Denel and others would participate in our Make In India initiative. And in this context we are in discussion with them on a couple of options which have just come out and we are discussing with them. During the visit I don’t anticipate any agreements to be signed but I can assure this will continue to remain an area of great interest for both our countries, the matter of defence & security cooperation.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Any other question on any other aspect of the visit? I don’t see any other hand. Thank you very much for joining. Thank you sir, thank Ma’am and thank you Dr. Neena.

(Concludes)

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