Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and President Cyril Ramaphosa greet crowds gathered for India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations on Friday. Photo: GCIS

A three-year strategic programme of co-operation was signed by South African and Indian officials to further enhance the strategic partnership between the two developing countries during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to India as chief guest at its 70th Republic Day celebrations.

Among interventions to boost relations between the nations, Ramaphosa agreed to simplify and reform the South African business visa regime.

He and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed the desire to broaden people-to-people interactions and increase two-way tourism by addressing challenges with regard to consular and immigration-related issues.

The two sides also agreed to conclude an agreement on the simplification of visa requirements and expressed their intent to explore avenues to resume direct air connectivity between South Africa and India.

“In order to ensure concrete deliverables, the prime minister and I concluded a three-year strategic programme of co-operation aimed at deepening the bilateral engagement between India and South Africa and ensuring that a result-orientated partnership benefits the people of both countries,” Ramaphosa said.

“We have instructed our ministers and officials to commence immediate implementation of this programme to take our bilateral relationship to a new level. India is a strategic partner for South Africa and I am most honoured to have been invited to pay this state visit to India.

“During our deliberations, the prime minister and I were in agreement that considerable scope exists for our two countries to grow our bilateral economic relationship,” he added.

While trade has increased significantly over the past few years, and India is currently South Africa’s second largest trading partner in Asia, there are a number of areas of future co-operation.

These include agro-processed goods, defence procurement, mining equipment and technology and co-operation in the financial services sector, said Ramaphosa.

During the visit, Modi and Ramaphosa agreed that the 10th Session of the India-South Africa Joint Ministerial Commission will be held this year in New Delhi led by the foreign ministers of both the countries.

They also expressed satisfaction at the steady pace of co-operation in the defence sector encompassing a wide range of engagements including defence production, joint collaboration, manufacturing, research and development, training and joint exercises.

They also agreed to enhance co-operation in the field of the oceans economy and to co-operate in multilateral forums on the blue economy including in the framework of Indian Ocean Rim Association.

They have also agreed to strengthen agriculture and fisheries co-operation in areas such as crop and animal production, food security, aquaculture and aquatic product processing.

Ramaphosa expressed his gratitude for India’s contribution to the higher education of South African youth through the fully-paid scholarships, and both further agreed to conclude a memorandum of understanding on co-operation in higher education.

They also welcomed signing of two MoUs between a leading policy research institute of India, namely, Research & Information System for Developing Countries based in Delhi with two premier South African think tanks, the Institute for Global Dialogue in Pretoria and South Africa Institute for International Affairs in Johannesburg.

“During our interactions with the president, we reviewed all the dimensions of our relations. Our trade and investment relations are becoming more and more intense. Our bilateral trade is more than $10billion (R136bn),” Modi said.

“South Africa participated as the partner country in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit held this year. And Indian companies are taking active part in the efforts of President Ramaphosa to increase investment in South Africa.

“We are also partners in South Africa’s skill development efforts – the Gandhi-Mandela Skills Institute is set to be established soon in Pretoria… And therefore, we will meet major business leaders of both the countries in a short while from now,” he added.

It was clear that India and South Africa are located at very important places in the Indian Ocean, Modi said, and were both democratic countries filled with diversities.

“We are the successors to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. And, therefore, the broad global outlook of both the countries is quite similar to each other,” Modi said.