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Manmohan leaves for South Africa

Singh will be visiting Durban and Pretoria, becoming the first Indian PM to visit South Africa since IK Gujral's trip in 1997.

india Updated: Sep 30, 2006 18:28 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Saturday for a three-day tour of South Africa to take part in the 100th anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi's historic satyagraha movement and also for meetings with President Thabo Mbeki.

Manmohan Singh will be visiting Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit South Africa since IK Gujral's trip in 1997.

Besides going to Pietermaritzburg, where Mahatma Gandhi was thrown off a train because of his colour in 1893, Manmohan Singh will visit the Phoenix settlement near Durban where he started an agricultural commune.

That event leading to Gandhi's ouster from the train was pivotal in his life and set him firmly on the path of satyagraha, eventually leading to India's freedom 54 years later in 1947.

Manmohan Singh and Mbeki, who met in Brasilia in September for the first summit of IBSA grouping that comprises India, Brazil and South Africa, will discuss the entire gamut of bilateral and global issues, including terrorism and trade.

The two countries are expected to sign a clutch of agreements in the fields of railways, education and cooperation in science and technology.

A preferential trade agreement with South African Customs Union (SACU) and agreements for bilateral investment protection and cooperation in agriculture and sports are also under consideration.

The Phoenix settlement near Durban was inspired in 1904 by John Ruskin's "Unto This Last" and extolled the virtues of the simple life of love, labour and the dignity of human beings.

Exhibitions on Gandhi and pictorial representations of his life story in Durban and Pretoria form part of the prime minister's itinerary.

The leaders of the two countries will address a joint press conference before Manmohan Singh flies back on Tuesday.

Meeting representatives of the Indian community - who constitute over one million of the 45.3 million people of the country - and South African business leaders form an important component of the visit.