India, South Africa to revise 20-year old Strategic Partnership

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is Republic Day chief guest.

India and South Africa will update their Strategic Partnership by agreeing on a comprehensive “roadmap” on the way ahead, as well as relaxing visa restrictions, when South African President Cyril Ramaphosa meets with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, officials said here.

Mr. Ramaphosa will be in India as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade on January 26, and and will be accompanied by nine Ministers and a 50-member business delegation.

The Strategic Partnership between India and South Africa, called the Red Fort Declaration, was signed in March 1997 by the then South African President Nelson Mandela and former PM H.D. Deve Gowda.

Officials said all aspects the partnership would be reviewed and updated with a three-year plan of action on security cooperation, trade and investment, tourism, harnessing the ‘blue economy’, maritime cooperation, agriculture, science and technology projects.

“We have MoUs in practically every area with South Africa. We want each of these areas to be taken up in a time-bound manner,” said T.S. Tirumurti Secretary (Economic Relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, briefing journalists ahead of the visit.

“This is going to be one important agreement, which will have all the areas on a roadmap with specific action plans,” he added, describing the “catch-all” document that will be signed on Thursday. The two sides are also expected to explore new defence deals in the backdrop of the lifting of a 13-year old ban on South African defence firm Denel that was barred from doing business in India since 2005.

Denel was finally removed from the blacklist in September 2018 after the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a closure report and the Supreme Court subsequently dismissed corruption charges against the company.

The decision to take Denel off the blacklist was made after Mr. Ramaphosa made a personal intervention on the issue during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Johannesburg last July.

“Yes, there had been a problem with Denel and we are happy that this issue was settled last year, Mr. Tirumurti said.

During his visit, Mr. Ramaphosa will also deliver the “First IBSA Gandhi Mandela Memorial Freedom Lecture”, instituted by the Indian Council of World Affairs in Delhi. In an interview to television channel Wion in Davos on Wednesday, Mr. Ramaphosa said that he saw his visit to India as a “homecoming moment.” “We want to promote trade and good relations between India and South Africa and celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s life and Nelson Mandela’s life. Our history is the glue that binds our two countries together,” he added, referring to India and South African links in their anti-colonial struggles.

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