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Health, trade on table as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visits India

Cyril Ramaphosa, who will be accompanied by nine ministers and a 50-member business delegation, will be making his first visit to India as head of state.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2019 07:48 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to India as the state guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations is expected to give fresh impetus to bilateral relations.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to India as the state guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations is expected to give fresh impetus to bilateral relations. (REUTERS)
         

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to India as the state guest of honour at the Republic Day celebrations is expected to give fresh impetus to bilateral relations in areas as diverse as human resource development and defence.

Ramaphosa, who will be accompanied by nine ministers and a 50-member business delegation, will be making his first visit to India as head of state. He is the second South African president after late Nelson Mandela to be chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

During his two-day visit, Ramaphosa will have a meeting and hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on bilateral, regional and global issues, the external affairs ministry said on Tuesday.

Ramaphosa, along with Modi, will address the India-South Africa Business Forum on January 25 to boost trade ties.

He will deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs as a part of celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Dialogue Forum.

People familiar with developments said there were several areas of convergence in the priorities of India and South Africa, including human resource development, healthcare access and digitisation of governance. Stronger engagement with South Africa aligns with the NDA government’s efforts to build strong links with Africa, they added.

Ramaphosa’s visit is expected to boost bilateral ties that stagnated towards the end of the tenure of former president Jacob Zuma, who resigned last year after coming under a cloud over allegations of corruption linked to the Gupta brothers of Indian origin, the people said.

In the field of defence, South African major Denel is expected to make fresh forays following its removal from an Indian government blacklist last year.

The firm was barred from defence deals in 2005 following allegations that it had paid kickbacks to secure a deal to supply anti-material or bunker buster rifles.

Denel is currently eyeing deals to supply anti-material and assault rifles to the Indian military. Ramaphosa will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday and President Ram Nath Kovind will host a state banquet for him. He will witness the Day parade and attend the “At Home” hosted by Kovind on Saturday before departing for South Africa.

The external affairs ministry said India and South Africa have had a “close and multifaceted strategic partnership since 1997” and Ramaphosa’s visit is expected to “further strengthen and enhance the close relationship”.

About 1.5 million people of Indian origin live in South Africa and more than 150 Indian companies have invested in that country, employing over 20,000 locals.

India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa and bilateral trade increased to $10.65 billion in 2018-19 from $9.38 billion in 2017-18.

First Published: Jan 23, 2019 07:44 IST