International Affairs



It is with great pleasure that I welcome you today as the Second High Commissioner of the Republic of South Africa to India.

It was from the crucible of the struggle for human dignity and equality in South Africa that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi emerged as the 'Mahatma' and subsequently led India to freedom. The legacy of Gandhiji which you have referred to, made us realize that our freedom was incomplete while you remained chained by apartheid. It was only natural therefore, for India to have consistently supported your struggle for human dignity. We have had the privilege of receiving your great leader Nelson Mandela and conferring on him our highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna, the 'Jewel of India'.

Long before the formal establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries in 1994, for well over 30 years since the early 60s, India recognized the ANC representative in New Delhi as the full-fledged Ambassador of the real South Africa which was struggling to break out of the confines of apartheid. For our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, India's identification with the South African struggle was more than a commitment; it was a passion. Given our close links with the liberation movement in South Africa and our involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle at international fora, we were exhilarated by the remarkable success of the South African people in their struggle which led to the inauguration of the first non-racial Government in May 1994. It was a singular personal honour for me to have represented India at the inauguration ceremony of the new South Africa in my then capacity as the Vice-President of India. In the same capacity, it was my special pleasure to welcome to India on his first visit by the then Vice President and now the President of South Africa, H.E. Dr. Thabo Mbeki.

In the five years of our formal diplomatic relations, our two countries have moved rapidly on all aspects of our bilateral relationship. Our joint commitment to democracy, secularism and social justice; the similarity and even identity of our views on major international issues; and the complementarities in our developing economies provide the basis for the Strategic Partnership which we have developed. I am sure that your tenure in this country will see a further enrichment of the substance and content of this Partnership.

It is a matter of satisfaction that both our countries have greatly intensified the level of our economic interaction. I am happy to note that our bilateral trade has grown by more than ten times in the last few years. The many institutional mechanisms we have set up to monitor this growing relationship have already proved their utility, and need to be further strengthened. In this context, the signing of as many as 13 bilateral agreements in vital areas of concern to both countries is of special significance. The Joint Commission between our two countries has met regularly. Our Chambers of Commerce and Industry have also been meeting under the auspices of the Indo-South Africa Commercial Alliance. New areas are being identified for cooperation including in science and technology, mining, telecommunications, low-cost housing, agriculture and information technology. I am sure that these developments will help in giving real economic content to the Partnership we are committed to.

India is gratified at the Chairmanship of the Non-aligned Movement having devolved upon South Africa, for whose liberation NAM strove for decades. Members of NAM need to work together in the post Cold War world to strengthen the political, economic and technological commonalities of the developing world and in order to preserve international equilibrium in our pluralistic world.

Madam High Commissioner, we in India extend our warm congratulations to President Thabo Mbeki for leading his party to a decisive victory in the second national elections a few months ago. We empathize with his objectives of promoting rapid socio-economic transformation in South Africa, and applaud his vision of an African renaissance which would project rejuvenated Africa on to the centre stage of world affairs. India has always shared the vision of a common Afro-Asian destiny and my Government would be happy to work with South Africa to promote this objective. We also stand ready to share with the Government and the people of South Africa the developmental experiences which we have gained over the 50 years of our independence. We will be proud to do so as a fellow member of NAM, of the Commonwealth and of the Indian Ocean Rim - Association of Regional Cooperation.

I wish Your Excellency an enjoyable and successful term of office in India. I take this opportunity to extend my Government's full cooperation for your efforts to carry forward the warm relationship between India and South Africa.

Thank you

Jai Hind