Showcasing India as an attractive destination for defence production, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sought a deeper collaboration in the sector with South Africa, a major arms exporter, even as he thanked it for supporting India’s bid for membership of Nuclear Suppliers Group.
On the second leg of a four-nation African tour, Modi held wide-ranging talks with South African President Jacob Zuma during which both sides decided to ramp up their traditional ties by boosting trade and investment ties, especially in manufacturing, mining, renewable energy and pharma sectors.
The two countries also agreed to bolster defence and security cooperation and vowed to cooperate “actively” in dealing with terrorism, besides working closely at multilateral fora.
After the talks, a total of four agreements were inked to expand ties in areas of information technology, arts and culture, tourism and science and technology.
“I thanked the President for South Africa’s support to India’s membership (bid) of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We know that we can count on the active support of our friends, like South Africa,” Modi said at a joint media interaction with Zuma after the talks.
There were reports that South Africa was among the countries which had reservations about India’s bid to join the 48-nation grouping when the issue came up for discussion at its plenary meeting in Seoul last month.
Pitching to take already close bilateral ties to new heights, both Modi and Zuma paid glowing tribute to “two liberation icons” -- Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
“For me personally, this visit is an opportunity to pay homage to two of the greatest human souls to have ever walked this Earth - Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela,” Modi said.
He further said, “We stood together in our common fight against racial subjugation and colonialism. It was in South Africa that Gandhi found his true calling. He belongs as much to India as to South Africa.”
About opportunities in the defence sector, Modi said both countries can join hands in not only meeting needs of each other but also to respond to regional and global demand.
“Beyond economic ties, and links of business, trade and investment, we can also partner in the field of defence and security. Both, at the level of industry and for our strategic and security needs,” he said.
He said the defence sector in India is one of the sectors witnessing a complete transformation and that it offers exciting opportunities.
“Our companies can also pool their capacities to jointly develop or manufacture defence equipments and platforms. And, not just to meet our defence needs, but also to respond to regional and global demand,” he said.
India last month had relaxed norms to allow 100 per cent FDI in defence sector.
“Terrorism is another shared threat that puts at risk the safety and security of our people. It attacks the very foundations of our society. The President and I agreed that our two nations need to stay vigilant and cooperate actively to combat terrorism, both in our region and in the world,” he said.
During the talks, Modi said the “full spectrum” of engagement between the two countries was reviewed and called for robust industry-to-industry ties for greater economic engagement.
He said the annual trade between the two countries has grown by over 300 per cent in last 10 years and that about one fourth of India’s investments in Africa are in South Africa.
India is South Africa’s sixth-largest trading partner, with annual trade recording at $5.3 billion in 2015-16.
Holding that ties between India and South Africa have been a story of strong advances and concrete achievements, Modi said there was potential to ramp up cooperation in trade and investment, especially in areas of minerals and mining, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and information technology.
Zuma welcomed Modi to his “second home” and said both the leaders held discussion on a range of bilateral and international issues including reform of the UN Security Council.
He said both sides will work together in multilateral forums like IBSA, BRICS, G 20, G 77 among others.
Zuma said Modi’s visit would help in further enhancements of trade, investment and commercial ties with India, particularly in areas of deep mining, health, agro processing, waste management and infrastructure development.
“This is a very important visit,” he said.
Modi said India and South Africa were also working together to shape priorities of international agenda through IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS. “I look forward to welcoming President Zuma in Goa for the BRICS summit later this year, in October.”
Referring to closeness between India and South Africa, Modi said though it was his first visit, “I already feel at home in this Rainbow Nation.”
The prime minister said he was convinced that industry to industry ties can not only bring “rich economic gains to our societies but can give a new shape to our partnership and drive it to new levels.”
He said India was ready to share its expertise and capacities for the development of small and medium business in South Africa.
The prime minister said from the Satyagraha of Gandhi to the “forgiveness of Madiba”, from ports of Gujarat to the shores of Durban, both countries are united by shared values and common struggles.
“Our relationship has been a story of resolve, determination, justice and the excellence of human endeavour. It is truly exceptional and unlike any other,” he said.
Modi said he and Zuma agreed on the need to work more closely on international issues and emerging global challenges.
“Climate change and its impact on the world is our shared concern. We agreed that a large scale effort and focus on renewable energy is needed to address this challenge.
“It was with this in mind that India had led the efforts to form an International Solar Alliance at COP 21 in Paris. I believe that it can be the most effective platform for access to knowledge, technology and finance for promoting solar energy,” he said.
Modi thanked Zuma for South Africa’s partnership in the alliance, which already has the support of over 120 countries.
Talking about maritime security, Modi said the waters of the Indian Ocean are common sea frontiers of both the countries.
“The Indian Ocean Rim Association has emerged as a key platform of engagement for the maritime neighbours connected by the Indian Ocean. I welcome South Africa’s chairmanship of the organisation for 2017-19,” he said.