International Affairs


Just about two and a half years ago the world watched with bated breath the first ever multi-racial elections in South Africa.  It rejoiced when the leaders of the  struggle against apartheid were wafted to power, and when the struggle's legendary leader, Nelson Mandela, ascended the Presidency of South Africa, and when you, Excellency, assumed charge as the First Deputy President of the new Republic.  I was privileged to have personally witnessed this exhilarating event, representing my country, which was involved in  the anti-apartheid movement from its very inception.

It was in the year 1894 that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the future Father of our Nation, founded the first political association in South Africa - the Natal Indian Congress. In South Africa he evolved Satyagraha - the new and revolutionary method of non-violent struggle, for human dignity and freedom.  Only a few months before his tragic death he told Dr. Yusuf Dadoo and Dr. G.M. Naicker, who called on him in Delhi, "Truly speaking, it was after I went to South Africa that I became what I am now.  My love for South Africa and my concern for her problems are no less than for India."

It was in this spirit that President Nelson Mandela, speaking in India, said: "You took our battle as your own battle.  Now that we have been victorious, it cannot be said too often that our victory is also India's victory."  But victory in South Africa was achieved as a result of an epic struggle led by leaders like the late Chief Albert Luthuli, the late Oliver Tambo, and by Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. You, Mr. Deputy President, who joined the struggle at the tender age of fourteen, symbolize the continuation of that historic tradition to the next generation in the era of reconciliation, reconstruction, and democracy in South Africa.  I extend to you, Excellency, and to Madame Mbeki, and to the distinguished members of your high-level delegation, a hearty welcome on behalf of the Government and the people of India, on the occasion of your first visit to our country.

India and South Africa are to-day engaged in an adventure of development and modernization.  The agenda before us is fundamentally the same.  It is bringing to the common man and woman the substance of freedom and the facilities for a decent standard of living and a cultured existence.  Towards this end we are engaged in exploiting and developing our considerable material and human resources.  In pluralistic societies like that of ours the spirit of co-existence and re-conciliation is an indispensable pre-requisite for any meaningful social and economic transformation  and development.  We are happy that you in South Africa are operating a democratic system in the spirit of forgiveness but not forgetfulness of the past and are reconstructing your economy and society.  It is our experience, Excellency, that the most efficacious system in accomplishing this objective in a pluralist society is that of democracy.

It is gratifying that in the three years since diplomatic relations were established between our two countries we have exchanged high-level visits of a significant character.  The visit of President Mandela to India in January 1995 was a land-mark event in our relations.  The India-South Africa Joint Commission has identified a number of specific areas in economic and technical co-operation, and in education, health, culture in small-scale and medium industries as well as in big industries and advanced fields of technology.  We are particularly keen to strengthen our co-operation in human resource development.  I was particularly happy to address a group of South African diplomats a few months ago who had just completed a course in our Foreign Service Training Institute.  We would welcome more such groups in the field of wider human resource development.

India has watched with admiration the progress you have made with regional co-operation in the South African Development Community.  We welcome the appointment of President Mandela as the Chairman of this Community which has grown into a most promising and cohesive regional co-operation system.  Another example of South-South Co-operation  is the recent setting up of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation.  I believe that        through SADC and Indian Ocean Rim for Regional Co-operation, our two countries can put new life and  substance  into the concept of South-South Co-operation.  Our joint effort can also revitalize the non-aligned movement making it relevant to the current problems of the developing countries and to the circumstances of the world to-day.  Attention of the world has to be re-focussed on the problems of the developing third world and also on the over-riding need for nuclear disarmament.  I am pointing this out  because in the midst of the discussions on nuclear proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty the basic danger posed to the world from the stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the great powers has tended  to be under-emphasized.  It is imperative that the question of nuclear disarmament should occupy the centre stage of international efforts for the sake of the future of humanity.

In this troubled world, the United Nations remains the beacon of hope for mankind.  However, it can scarcely perform such onerous tasks unless it is reformed to reflect  the realities of the world to-day with proper representation to developing countries in its central institutions.

Excellency, we believe in the need to upgrade our bilateral relationship into a substantial and multi-faceted alliance of two great nations of the Afro-Asian region.  This alliance, founded on the poignant history of our joint struggle against colonial oppression and apartheid, and buttressed by our mutual interests and our common outlook on the world, can give  a new dimension to  Afro-Asian identity in the globalised world order of our times.  I believe that this visit of Your Excellency to India will make an important contribution to that cherished goal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I invite you to join me in proposing a toast to the health of the Presidents of India and South Africa;

to the health and well-being of His Excellency Deputy President Mbeki and Madame Mbeki;
to everlasting friendship between India and South Africa.

Thank you

Jai Hind