India and South Africa share a relationship based on the common ideas of establishing world peace, a shared colonial legacy and post-independence development experience. The two countries are committed to enhance the voice and representation of emerging and developing economies in multilateral forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), United Nations (UN) and Commonwealth. In Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, the two countries have produced icons of peace, non-violence and compassion.
The contours of a strategic partnership between the two nations were established by the Red Fort Declaration of March 1997 signed by then Indian Prime Minister HD Deva Gowda and Nelson Mandela. The Tshwane Declaration signed on October between then South African President Thabo Mbeki and the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reaffirmed the commitment of the two countries to a global order of peace, equality and justice and reiterated that peace and development are indivisible and that good governance was the best-known way to ensure both. They emphasised that under-development could not be addressed in isolation, but that its eradication was a factor of numerous social and environmental influences, including education, health care, basic infrastructure and amenities, capacity building and skills enhancement, political participation at all levels, advancement of indigenous culture and social organisation and access to natural resources, clean water and air for all.
On the occasion of 70th Republic Day of India, South African President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa was invited as the Chief Guest at India’s 70th Republic Day Parade by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On 25th January 2019, the two leaders held discussions in the spirit of the strategic partnership, strong friendship and historical links between the two countries. Both leaders acknowledged the acknowledged the significance of the 100th birth anniversary celebrations of Nelson Mandela and the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi and paid homage to their legacy.
During Ramaphosa’s visit, the two countries enhanced their strategic partnership through the signing of Three-Year Strategic Programme of Cooperation (2019-2021). The two countries expressed satisfaction at the deepening and widening of this comprehensive bilateral partnership and emphasized the need to further deepen relations in the political, economic, defence, scientific, consular and socio-cultural spheres.
In the domain of defence, the two countries recognized the importance of increased bilateral naval cooperation and closer synergy within the context of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) which, by keeping the sea lanes secure against illegal actors, will ensure unhindered passage for trade and continued prosperity of the entire Indian Ocean Region. The navies of the two countries have intensified their engagement in recent years in maritime operations and training.
Both Modi and Ramaphosa agreed that terrorism looms upon every country and thereby. constitutes a grave threat to global peace and security. The two leaders highlighted the need for concerted action against terrorism through early agreement and adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, as well as the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in a balanced and integrated manner.
Discussions on Trade also formed an important agenda during Ramaphosa’s visit to India. India is South Africa’s fifth-largest export destination, and fourth-largest import origin and is the second-largest trading partner. A Joint Statement issued by the two countries committed expanding cooperation in the fields of trade and investments between business entities in South Africa and India, and agreed to enhance bilateral investments between the two countries. The Joint Statement mentioned that both countries should explore solutions aimed at boosting trade and investment. In this context, President Ramaphosa agreed to simplify and reform South African business visa regime.
The two countries underlined the need for jointly working towards reform in the global governance architecture such as WTO, international financial systems etc. in order to advance a development-centred agenda that promotes inclusive growth.
The Joint Statement also highlighted the need for increasing cooperation in Science and Technology and innovations. The two countries expand cooperation in the renewable energy sector as well as oil and gas, mining, deep mining and mineral beneficiation. The two countries also agreed to strengthen agriculture and fisheries cooperation in areas such as crop and animal production, food security, aquaculture and aquatic product processing.
Highlighting the significance of India-South Africa relations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi remarked: “We are the successors to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. And therefore, the broad global outlook of both the countries is quite similar to each other”.