About Us Speeches

OpEd by High Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj in the Cape Times of 26 March 2018

Posted on: March 26, 2018 | Back | Print

OpEd by High Commissioner Ruchira Kamboj in the Cape Times of 26 March 2018.

Building Hope and Harmony in 2018

India and South Africa share a very special relationship which is over 200 years old.India's links with the struggle for freedom and justice in South Africa date back to whenMahatma Gandhi conceptualized his politics and started his non-violent struggle 'Satyagraha' which made South Africa his 'Karma Bhumi' or his land of work. It was South Africa that transformed a young lawyer Mohandas Gandhi into 'Mahatma Gandhi'.  Rightly, therefore, in speaking of Mahatma Gandhi, 'Madiba' had said : "The soul of India lies in South Africa".

India was at the forefront of the international community in its support to the anti-apartheid movement.  It was the first country to severe trade relations with the apartheid Government in 1946 and subsequently imposed a complete diplomatic, commercial, cultural and sports embargo on South Africa, while working consistently to put the issue on the agenda of the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.  

India was also the first country to embrace South Africa after apartheid and hosted the South Africa cricket team after the evil was lifted in July 1991. Our common cultural, religious, colonial and spiritual heritage ensured that we remained close and connected.

India's relations with South Africa were restored in May 1993, while formal
diplomatic relations commenced in November 1993.  There has been a steady consolidation of our close and friendly ties, both bilaterally and through the IBSA and BRICS forums.  Both countries have signed multiple agreements in diverse areas ranging from economic and commercial cooperation, defence, culture, health, public administration, human settlements, science & technology and education.  

India's Technical and Economic Cooperation programme has been a particularly useful medium in promoting vital people-to-people contacts between our two countries.

The Indian diaspora in South Africa, one of our largest overseas communities, are the proud sons and daughters of India to this beautiful country, which is now their home and to which they so richly contribute.  We fondly remember comrades Ahmed Kathrada, Lalu Chiba, Mac Maharaj, Billy Nair, Prema Naidoo and others, who were such torch bearers. The social impact of the Indians who have established their homes and businesses in South Africa is indeed significant.

2018 marks a significant year in India-South Africa relations.  It is the 20th yearof the signing of the "Red Fort Declaration" heralding a Strategic Partnership between thetwo countries; the 25th year of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations; the 125th anniversary of the Pietermaritzburg "incident" and importantly, the centenary of "Madiba". 2017 was the 100th birth anniversary of ANC stalwart OR Tambo.  We are delighted that in 2018, India and South Africa will jointly release commemorative stamps honouring both OR Tambo and Madiba, both of whom occupy a special place in Indian hearts. 

The State visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in July 2016 was a landmarkvisit which set a new target to double bilateral trade in the next five years.  Former Presidents of South Africa have also regularly visited India which has ensured continued engagement between the two countries.

There are over 150 Indian companies in South Africa who have had immeasurable positive impact on the country, yet they remain under the radar and are sometimes unheard ofin mainstream discussions. Collective investment, creation of local South African employment, training and development, CSR activities of Indian companies, etc, remain formally unmapped but are hugely significant.

Indian companies, which include well-known household names such as TATA, Mahindra,WIPRO, Vedanta, Jindal Steels, CIPLA, Ranbaxy, and the State Bank of India have investedapproximately about US $ 8-9 billion into South Africa, conducted large scale businesses,employed tens of thousands of South Africans and contributed to the economic growth of South Africa. 

These CSR activities include IT training, sports development, donation of Maths/Science labs, IT labs, internships, environmental programmes, road safety campaigns, educational upliftment, food drives, IT skill development, HIV/AIDS programmes, mobile clinics, graduate recruitment programmes and career support etc.

It is heartening to note that as interest in upscaling the education system of South Africa grows, the majority of the CSR programmes of the Indian companies are focused on education, development and empowering projects.  These are the "truths that remain untold".  

Although a strong political and economic relationship is enjoyed between the two countries, it is this quiet diligence, ambition, support, hard work, determination, innovation and creativity of the Indian investors and the Indian diaspora in South Africa that should be celebrated.

In speaking of India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said,   "India's success storycan be defined by the word HOPE : H-Harmony; O-Optimism; P-Potential; and E-Energy". 

With its growing resilience and innovative economy, India can be a partner with South Africa to not only train skilled manpower but also to bring innovation to South Africa.  India like South Africa is a young nation. We are working to skill youth and will be delighted to
partner with South Africa in this endeavor.

To this end, it is the intent of India to open a Skills Training Institute  in 2018 in South Africa to upgrade local skills leading to an enhanced self-sustenance and independence in South Africa.  Going forward, we greatly look forward to collaborate with South Africa on this exciting project.

India, with its US$ 2.4 trillion (2017) economy is working to achieve over 8% growthin the coming years, endeavours to create 500 million new jobs by 2022 and transform ruraland urban areas through infrastructure development.  India's rise is a story of "rareresilience, renewed resurgence, superb speed and spectral skills" for which the policy
framework strengthening India's trade, manufacturing, innovation and investment partnerships is being readied. 

Our trade with South Africa has touched US$ 9.5 billion in 2016-17, with huge potential existing in transport, pharmaceuticals, textile, engineering goods, minerals,chemicals, gems and jewelry etc.  Several South African investors such as Sanlam, Momentum, ACSA, Sab Miller, Adcock-Ingram, Rand Merchant Bank etc, have established their presence in India.  We propose to accelerate the momentum through an India-South Africa Business Summit, first of its kind, scheduled to be held at Sandton, Johannesburg on 29-30 April 2018.

India and South Africa face similar challenges in their respective journeys to rid their countries of poverty and hunger through the empowerment of their people.  Ours is arelationship that speaks of enthusiasm, development, promise, integrity and mutual support. 

Above all, it is an alliance of trust and cooperation.  Let us work together in 2018 torealize the full potential of this relationship.

Viva India! Viva South Africa