SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA, H.E. SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET HOSTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA H.E. MR. JACOB ZUMA
Pretoria, South Africa, 2nd May 2012
Your Excellency, President Jacob Zuma,
Her Excellency Mrs. Zuma,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a great pleasure for me as well as the members of my delegation to be here today in this beautiful city of Pretoria. I thank my most gracious host His Excellency President Zuma, for extending very warm hospitality. Excellency we very fondly remember your landmark state visit to India in 2010 and your participation at the recent BRICS summit held in India. We acknowledge and deeply value your contribution to further strengthening our bilateral ties, as also your statesmanship and valuable inputs to discussions on global issues.
India's links with South Africa are based on strong historical foundations. These are cherished by all, and remain firm as we build our common future based on our shared vision for the 21st Century.
Our partnership today is grounded in our common historical experience of colonial exploitation. India was privileged to be actively associated with the struggle of the South African people, and to be the first country to raise its voice against the abhorrent system of apartheid at the UN in 1946, even before we had achieved our own independence. India's opposition to the repugnant and unjust system of apartheid was born the day the Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi experienced discrimination at the railway station in Pietermaritzburg in Kwazulu-Natal . I look forward to visiting that historic railway station, and pay my solemn respects to Gandhiji on the South African soil. In July 1914, when Gandhiji was returning back to India he wrote, "it was a great wrench for me to leave South Africa, where I had passed twenty-one years of my life sharing to the full in the sweets and bitters of human experience, and where I had realized my vocation in life." Indeed, it was in South Africa that the philosophy of Satyagraha was born and took shape; and Barrister Gandhi became Mahatma Gandhi.
An important pillar of our vibrant bilateral relations is the people of Indian origin in South Africa, whose contributions to their adopted motherland, in the midst of discrimination and tyranny during the apartheid era, are themselves stories of great courage and tenacity through some 150 years. We salute all the great stalwarts of the past and congratulate the present generation of people of Indian Origin here on their contribution in fostering and strengthening linkages with India.
Our linkages with South Africa are multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional and embrace sectors vital to the lives of all our peoples such as health and food security, infrastructure, energy, generic medicines and industrial development. It has given me immense pleasure to learn that Indian companies are working closely with the South African government to provide high quality and cost effective pharmaceuticals in vital areas, including for combating HIV and AIDS.
Our two countries have strived hard to further broaden and deepen our bilateral trade and economic engagement. Bilateral Trade between India and South Africa has already crossed the US$ 11 billion mark in 2010-11. It is my view that our trade partnership should be extended to the services sector as it is becoming a fundamental building block of our economic engagement. I am happy to note that the Joint CEOs Forum is working to explore the vast opportunities that exist and harness new ones.
The Second India-Africa Forum Summit, held in Addis Ababa in May 2011, has helped forge a blueprint for the future partnership between India and Africa. I am sure that South Africa will partner us in this and avail the opportunities, as it sees appropriate for its own development.
India and South Africa are now strategic partners as fastest growing democracies who share convergent views on global challenges facing us. Our meaningful partnership is based on equality and mutual respect. We are partners in various important multilateral fora like G-20, IBSA and BRICS, while working closely on important issues like climate change, reform of the United Nations including expansion of the United Nations Security Council and world trade negotiations. The India - South Africa partnership has great promise and we are committed to strengthening it.
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests may I now request you to join me in raising a toast to:-
- the good health of His Excellency President Zuma and Mrs. Zuma;
- the further strengthening of our abiding friendship and multi-faceted ties; and
- the peace, progress and well-being of the peoples of India and South Africa.