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Common good

The outcome of PM's visit to South Africa is yet another manifestation of the new directions of India?s post-Cold War foreign policies.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2006 03:26 IST

The outcome of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to South Africa is yet another manifestation of the new directions of India’s post-Cold War foreign and security policies. The effort to develop stronger political and economic ties with the largest and most-developed economy in the African continent is part of New Delhi’s emphasis on building bilateral relations with influential countries, with the expectation that this will generate a regional, if not global, spin-off. This is clearly evident in India’s engagements with the US, EU, China, Japan, Brazil and the Asean. Where non-alignment stresses consensus and solidarity, the new outlook emphasises deal-making and trade-offs.

Both are evident in the support South Africa has extended to India in its effort to get the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to end its embargo on nuclear trade and cooperation with our civil nuclear sector, and New Delhi’s willingness to back South Africa as a permanent member in a reformed UN Security Council. In this, New Delhi and Pretoria have shown how global politics, as much as its domestic version, is the art of the possible. South Africa has made it clear that cooperation in the nuclear area will come only after India settles the matter with the global influential — the US. Yet this support is not insignificant because Pretoria is a member of the 45-member NSG and as the only country to voluntarily surrender its nuclear weapons and one of five major uranium producing nations, it has special clout in the grouping.

For its part, India has been careful not to overplay the UN Security Council hand, because the African nations themselves have yet to take a position on the issue. Yet, by showing a preference for South Africa, India has set the stage for the next phase of its campaign to secure a permanent seat in a reformed UNSC and, in the process, probably nudged Pretoria itself to openly declare its candidacy. The country’s resources and its well-developed infrastructure are already acting as a magnet to Indian companies, which hope to use it as a springboard for their larger continental ambitions. Separated by an ocean, and linked by history, India and South Africa clearly have a lot going for them beyond their past connections.