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India is part of us, says President Mbeki

"The sentiment of India in South Africa is not that of another country, but of being part of us. Even elements in our national cuisine are Indian cuisine," says the South African President.

world Updated: Aug 04, 2007 13:21 IST

The two-day India Calling 2007 conclave, organised by the Indian Merchants' Association and Business Unity South Africa, ended on a high note here with President Thabo Mbeki saying he was encouraged by the outcome of the meet and calling on India to help Africa move into the 21st century by alleviating poverty.

Mbeki was reacting to comments by the leaders of the two host organizations, Rahul Bajaj and Patrice Motsepe, that they were both confident of meeting the target of trebling trade between the two countries to $12 billion by 2010 set by the heads of the two countries.

The meet, that ended on Friday evening, was attended by captains of business and industry from both countries, participating a in a series of sessions on a variety of issues ranging from global challenges to the opportunities to invest in each others' countries.

Mbeki said he and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had always felt that there was a lot more that could be done and that they would both intervene when necessary.

Mbeki said: "The sentiment of India in South Africa is not that of another country, but of being part of us. Even elements in our national cuisine are Indian cuisine. Even the sari is becoming an item of high clothing among all the women of South Africa.

"We share Mahatma Gandhi and that relates not only to the matter of his having been here for some time but to the impact that his ideas had on the conduct of our own struggle, even on the formation of the South Africa liberation movement."

Indian Minister of State for Industry Ashwini Kumar lauded Mbeki's efforts, saying that the president was "defining the colour of the 21st century by giving new meaning to the definition of freedom and dignity".

Kumar said: "The world looks to India and South Africa for a new definition of a world order. The single theme that binds India and South Africa is the moral theme that standards of life are more important than (commercial growth)."

The minister emphasized the importance of growth with social justice and empowerment, recognising human dignity alongside the path of economic prosperity.

"Those who live on the margins should be the centre of our concerns," Kumar added.

Confirming an earlier comment by Kumar that the 21st century would belong to India and South Africa, Mbeki said the strategic partnership between the two countries was a partnership also to help address the challenges that face the African continent.

Mbeki said: "India serves as an inspiring example to many of us. When we see the way that Indian business has developed globally, we see that it is filling a space that is important for the whole developing world.

"The Indian impact on technology, pharmaceuticals (and other areas) on the world addresses the fundamental problem of equity and rebalancing of power in the world that is crucial to the solution of all the problems that we face."

"We cannot serve only the bilateral interest of India and South Africa, but also what we can do to strengthen the India-South Africa partnership which is critical to the achievement of the goals for the African continent," he added.

Mbeki called on the delegates to address the common challenge of eliminating poverty.

The South African president said: "Poverty in both our countries is a matter on which we have got to focus continuously. To address that problem effectively we need the business people who are in this room with the talent, capacity and things they can do which must make an impact on this problem. That is fundamental to what is important in having sat with your counterparts here - to say what can we do together?"