India and South Africa will seek to take forward their strategic partnership, including in the field of defence and security cooperation, during the two-day visit of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who will be Chief Guest at India's 70th Republic Day parade this year.
President Ramaphosa, who arrives Friday on a two-day visit, will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House after a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan. This is his first visit to India as Head of State.
Addressing a media briefing on the visit, T.S. Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations), in the Ministry of External Affairs, said: "During the visit we hope to agree on a roadmap to take the strategic partnership forward. Defence and security cooperation will continue to be an area of close bilateral cooperation. South African defence industries are looking at our Make in India initiative with renewed interest."
He added that both countries have "strong interest" in maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region. India has also extended training slots for South African defence personnel and both sides share close concerns in combating terrorism and terrorist funding.
President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by First Lady Dr. Tshepo Motsepe, and a high-level delegation including nine ministers, senior officials and a large business delegation, the Ministry of External Affairs official said.
The South African leader's visit was preceded by joint working group meetings on agriculture, trade and investment and mines. "The visit is significant in view of the strategic partnership with South Africa and in the overall context of India's enhanced engagement with Africa," Tirumurti said.
Both sides will hold delegational level talks at Hyderabad House on Friday on a wide range of matters of mutual interest. The South African leader will later address the 25th Gandhi Mandela Freedom Lecture, organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), under the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) framework as part of celebrations of the 15th anniversary of the IBSA bloc. Both leaders will address the India-South Africa Business Forum later in the day. President Ram Nath Kovind will host a banquet for the visiting dignitary in the evening.
On Saturday, he will attend the Republic Day parade as Chief Guest, and later attend the At Home reception by President Kovind. He departs in the evening.
The visit comes as South Africa celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of Nelson Mandela last year and India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year.
The visit also highlights India's increased engagement with the African continent. "Relations with Africa are at an all-time high," the MEA official said, adding that there were an "unprecedented" 29 visits at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister from India to African countries in the last four years.
There have been numerous incoming visits too, at the Heads of State and Heads of Government level from Africa to India, including at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015 and the founding conference of the International Solar Alliance last year.
"Overall, our relations with Africa in defence and security, economic, trade and investment relations and capacity building are at an all-time high," he said.
India and South Africa established strategic partnership in March 1997 during the state visit of then President Nelson Mandela. Both countries have seen "significant intensification" in their bilateral engagement, which got “new momentum” following the bilateral visit of Prime Minister Modi in 2016, said Tirumurti.
Prime Minister Modi visited South Africa in 2018 for the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) summit while External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited the country in June last year, said the official.
Both Prime Minister Modi and President Ramaphosa have met thrice in 2018 since the latter assumed office in February 2018 – on the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, BRICS meeting in Johannesburg and the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Ramaphosa will be the second President of South Africa after Nelson Mandela to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day. (ANI)