India, South Africa to boost defence ties, trade.

• South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is on a two-day visit to India

• He will be the chief guest at India’s 70th Republic Day parade on Saturday


India and South Africa on Friday concluded a three-year strategic programme to boost cooperation in key areas, including defence and trade, after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in New Delhi.

The pact sets out the direction that the partnership between the two countries is expected to take in the coming years, with the visiting South African president saying that his country was seeking "result-oriented" ties with India.

He listed defence and security, trade and investment, the blue economy, tourism, IT and agriculture as priority areas for cooperation from his government’s side.

Ramaphosa is on a two-day visit to India, his first since taking office as president of South Africa in February last year.

He will be the chief guest at India’s 70th Republic Day parade on Saturday, the second dignitary from South Africa to be invited as chief guest to the parade. Prior to this, India had invited former president Nelson Mandela as the guest of honor at the celebrations in 1995.

In the past several years, India has stepped up engagement with Africa, with 29 visits at the level of the president, the vice-president and the prime minister to African countries. This is part of India's effort to recast its ties with the resource and energy-rich continent against the backdrop of China making deep inroads into Africa.

In his comments to reporters after talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the South African president said during discussions “the prime minister and I were in agreement that considerable scope exists for our two countries to grow and extend and deepen our bilateral relations at a number of levels, but more particularly at the economic level."

Ramaphosa's visit was preceded by meetings of officials on agriculture, trade and investment — areas the two sides identified as priority, an Indian official said on Thursday.

T.S. Tirumurti, secretary, economic relations, Indian foreign ministry, also said that South African armaments firm Denel had been taken off an Indian blacklist after being placed on it for allegedly paying kickbacks to secure contracts from the Indian Army in 2005. Under the deal, the Indian Army was to procure 700 anti-material rifles. But the procurement was put on hold because of the ban.

In July, Ramaphosa had urged Modi to allow the state-run arms maker to do business in India.

In his comments, Modi recalled that he had first met Ramaphosa when the latter was vice-president in 2016. Last year, the two had met on three occasions — at the CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) in London in April, the BRICS meeting in July in Johannesburg and later at the G-20 meet in Buenos Aires. (Source:Livemint)

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