South Africa and India already have a solid framework for strong relations, not least in the areas of trade and investment, Indian High Commissioner to South Africa (Ms) Ruchira Kamboj tells Engineering News Online. "India and South Africa are old friends and historical partners," she highlights. "Don't forget we are Brics [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa alignment] countries, members of IBSA [India, Brazil, South Africa], and we are both members of the Commonwealth. And we are both countries of the Global South."
Bilateral trade between India and South Africa currently stands at about $10-billion (coincidently, about the same value as current bilateral investment). More than 150 Indian companies have invested in South Africa, employing more than 20 000 South Africans (quite apart from these enterprises' many and varied corporate social responsibility programmes). These investors included some of India's biggest and best known groups, such as Tata, Mahindra, Vedanta and Motherson Sumi.
In 2016, the two countries set a target of doubling bilateral trade and investment to $20-billion by 2021. "Given the framework of our relationship, and that we're members of both Brics and IBSA, it's natural that our relations should grow," she noted. (IBSA still functions, with regular meetings at Foreign Minister level.)
"This time is the best time, for we have a New India and a New South Africa," she affirmed. "In 2018 so far, 14 Indian Cabinet Ministers have visited South Africa, including Prime Minister Modi (for the Brics Summit). We believe that this high level engagement will continue. It sends the right signal to business and especially investors."
This year has also seen, in the defence sector, the breaking of the long-running logjam regarding South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel. There are no administrative restrictions on Denel, which is now free to do business with the Indian government and Indian companies.
"2018 has been a good year for India-South Africa relations," she reports. "This year is the 25th anniversary of the restoration of Indian-South African relations, the 100th birthday of President Nelson Mandela and the 150th birthday celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi."
"What I'd really like to see would be a direct flight between South Africa and India," concludes Kamboj. "That would be an immediate stimulus to trade and tourism. That should be a short-term deliverable for both countries. Currently, you have to fly via Dubai or Addis Ababa, which is circuitous and time consuming and certainty does not boost trade and tourism."