October 19, 2003

Mbeki on visit to India

President Thabo Mbeki and his 12 ministers’ visit to India this week has underscored the ties that bind the two countries – ties that stretch back to the 19th century, when the first indentured labourers arrived in South Africa from India. It also harks back to Mahatma Gandhi’s relationship with South Africa, when he visited the country as a young lawyer, and his influence on many of our liberation heroes. Then there was India’s role as an anti-Apartheid supporter. It fought SA’s case at the United Nations in 1946.

The relationship now encompasses significant economic ties with India, which is the 15th most important export market for our country. In 1997, South African exports totalled R1,34 billion. By last year, they had increased to R4,03 billion. In turn, South Africa is India’s second-biggest trading partner in Africa. But the links between the countries go further. South Africa recognises in India an important global player: one that can help it explore new markets, particularly in South Asia. The President and his ministers have earmarked certain areas for exploration, such as crime-fighting, justice, terrorism, mining, health, science, technology and information communication technology. India, one of the world’s foremost information technology countries, has much to teach South Africa. (Sunday Times, Johannesburg)

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