Pretoria/Johannesburg, July 8 (IANS) Pitching for stronger business and trade between India and South Africa, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday laid emphasis on industry-to-industry ties between the two countries while thanking South African President Jacob Zuma for extending support to India’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
“I am convinced that industry-to-industry ties not only can bring rich economic gains to our societies, they can give a new shape to our partnership, and drive it to new levels,” Modi said in a joint press statement with Zuma following delegation-level talks between the two sides in Pretoria.
“And, in the process, also help both our nations to play a more robust regional and global role,” he added.
Modi said that in the last two decades, the relationship between the two countries has been a story of strong advances and concrete achievements.
The Prime Minister said that one-fourth of India’s investments in Africa were in South Africa.
He said that given the nature of the two countries’ developing economies, both should also focus on improving human capital.
Modi said, during Friday’s talks, he and Zuma agreed on the need to work more closely on international issues and emerging global challenges.
“I thanked the President for South Africa’s support to India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” he said.
He said that both sides agreed to “cooperate actively to combat terrorism, both in our region and in the world”.
He welcomed South Africa’s chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and said that it has emerged as a key platform of engagement for the maritime neighbours connected by the Indian Ocean.
In his remarks, Zuma said that over 100 Indian companies were operating in South Africa and these were playing a “significant role” in the country’s economy and job creation.
“We are looking to diversify South Africa’s exports to India,” he said, and cited the defence sector, deep mining and renewable energy as areas of bilateral cooperation.
According to him, water management, pharmaceuticals and infrastructure development are areas that hold potential in the future.
The President also called for tourism promotion to improve people-to-people ties.
Following Friday’s talks, both sides signed three memorandums of understanding – on information and communication technology, tourism, and grass root innovation in the science and technology – and a programme of cooperation in arts and culture.
Later, attending an India-South Africa business summit along with Zuma, Modi emphasised upon the need for India and South Africa to further diversify their trade basket and said bilateral trade between the two countries had risen 380 per cent over the last decade.
“South Africa is India’s key trade and investment partner. In the last 10 years, bilateral trade has grown almost 380 per cent. The story of investments also continues to be bright. There is continuous flow of investments both ways. More than 150 Indian companies are operating in South Africa. The scope is tremendous,” Modi said in his address.
“We must look at ways to diversify our trade basket. Our active partnership across various facets and forums is a testimony to the fact that such engagement is possible,” he said.
“South African business excellence and Indian capacities must leverage each other for growth and development in our two countries.”
Calling upon South African investors to increase their investments into India, Modi said that emphasis has been given upon the ease of doing business.
“We can work together in a number of areas from defence to dairy, from hardware to software, from medicines to medical tourism, from soft skills to science and technology. There are opportunities for us,” he stated.
The Prime Minister later visited the Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, the site of South Africa’s highest constitutional court and where Mahatma Gandhi was once incarcerated, and paid floral tributes to the leader of India’s freedom struggle.
He also visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation and paid tribute to the apartheid icon.
He will address an Indian diaspora rally in Johannesburg on Friday evening before departing for Durban where his engagements are scheduled for Saturday.
Modi arrived in South Africa from Mozambique on Thursday night on the second leg of his four-nation tour of Africa.
This is his first visit to mainland Africa and is also the first prime ministerial visit from India to South Africa since then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in 2013 for the G20 summit in Durban.
Apart from Mozambique and South Africa, Modi will also visit Tanzania and Kenya.