October 16, 2003

South Africa and India sign key pacts

India and South Africa signed five landmark pacts and in a declaration pledged to jointly fight international terrorism, religious bigotry and drug trafficking. Visiting President Thabo Mbeki and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee looked on as delegates from the two sides inked an extradition treaty, an accord on mutual legal assistance and an agreement on cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.

By stressing the bilateral ties which were rooted in history, Mbeki remarked: "We need this strong relationship because of the global crisis as is reflected by the challenge posed by the crisis in Iraq, which has shaken the very foundations of the United Nations philosophy and left smaller and weaker nations more vulnerable." Mbeki and Vajpayee also held official-level talks to find ways to boost ties in fields such as trade and defence.

The talks also touched on a trilateral treaty India and South Africa signed with Brazil in June to boost trade and pool their political muscle in talks with rich nations, one source said.

After his talks in New Delhi, Mbeki visited India's southern hi-tech hub Hyderabad and financial capital Bombay.

Economic relations between India and South Africa continued to grow with bilateral trade reaching U$870 million in 2002 and the two sides are negotiating a preferential trade agreement in the hope of doubling the figure. India currently ranks South Africa as its 15th biggest export market and 24th most important import market. (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg)

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