India, S Africa to expand cooperation

Pretoria: India and South Africa, whose ties have acquired a "robust and dynamic" character, today decided to expand cooperation in a number of fields like power, IT, health, tourism and infrastructure development. This was stated by President Pratibha Patil after talks with her South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, who hailed her state visit as "significant".

Patil, who arrived here on Tuesday on a week-long visit, was given a ceremonial welcome at the historic Union building housing the office of the South African President. "It is even more satisfying that our bilateral relationship today has acquired a robust and dynamic character, to assume the dimension of a strategic partnership… Today`s discussions with President Zuma were wide-ranging and covered bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest," she said.

She said India is interested in working closely with the government of South Africa to develop the Gandhi heritage sites in this country. Extending an invitation to Indian businessmen to invest in South Africa, Zuma said his country has launched an ambitious programme of over USD 100 billion for infrastructure development by 2014.

South Africa would like to enhance cooperation with New Delhi in a number of areas especially infrastructure development, training, trade relations and tourism, he said. To boost its infrastructure programme, South Africa wishes to enhance skills in the areas of engineering, information and communication technology, computer science, finance, economics and accounting, Zuma said.

"With trade between South Africa and India increasing steadily, we should all work to reach even higher figures," he said. Striking a similar note, Patil said while there was satisfaction over the current state of bilateral ties, "we did feel that considerable opportunities existed which are needed to be fully explored, particularly in the area of trade and economic cooperation."

Indian companies are investing in capacity building by systematic training of South Africans, creating jobs and playing an important role in the development and economic growth of South Africa, she said, adding a business delegation was also accompanying her to give a greater thrust to this aspect.

Noting that she and Zuma agreed to closely monitor the implementation of various agreements that exist, Patil said that people-to-people contacts are at the heart of the "vibrant and robust relationship." Patil thanked South Africa for its meaningful contribution, as one of India`s closest partners, on important issues like reform of the United Nations and the international financial system, including the Bretton Woods Institutions, climate change and global trade talks.

India and South Africa are members of IBSA, BRICS, G-20, IOR-ARC, NAM, the Commonwealth and other plurilateral as well as multilateral bodies. Expressing concern over piracy in the Indian Ocean region, Patil said India was deeply committed to working with South Africa to ensure that "our trade routes are not affected, and we are able to bring a sense of safety and security in the maritime waters."