No other country in the world shares the special relationship that exists between India and South Africa, Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma has said.
"I would like to find another parallel. I have honestly tried to but I don't find one," Sharma said during a dinner here last evening at the start of the four-day 'India Show' that will see a host of business and cultural events across the city.
"There could not have been a greater honour for me to be a part of your struggle that connects us together to the two icons who are shared heroes. No two countries have shared heroes (like) Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela is as much our hero as Gandhi is yours. In fact (Gandhi) is more yours, but also ours," the Minister said as he recalled the shared history of struggle and sacrifice.
Commenting on a dance show of all regions of India that preceded the dinner at which highly-decorated Indian chef Hemant Oberoi prepared a range of Indian dishes, Sharma said India had shown the world that it had accepted what was best for centuries in terms of culture and cuisine.
Echoing Sharma's view, South African Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said, "outside South Africa, there is no other place that we call home than Mother India. I can testify to that, because I spent five and a half years of my life there (as High Commissioner). Every time I land in New Delhi I just feel like I am coming back home."
Nkoana-Mashabane said 2010 had been an auspicious year for both countries on the sporting front as South Africa hosted a spectacular FIFA 2010 World Cup for the first time on African soil, while India will be hosting for the first time the Commonwealth Games at the beginning of October.
"We will be there, with or without our vuvuzelas, to help India celebrate."
The Minister said in the coming months we will have to accelerate our trade and economic ties.
"I know that you would want to have exceeded USD 10 billion mark in the next two years in terms of our trade. I know that you also want to accelerate the talks and discussions on SACU (Southern African Customs Union) relations with India and to move towards the successful conclusion of that so that we can expand our trade ties," he said.
These issues will also be on the table when 15 captains of trade and industry from each country meet at the first meeting here on Tuesday of the revived CEO's Forum that was relaunched during President Jacob Zuma's state visit to India two months ago, he added.
Nearly 60 exhibitors would display diverse range of products at the India Show.