07-05-2012 : On Board Special Aircraft
Ladies and Gentlemen of Media,
I have just concluded my State Visits to the Republic of Seychelles and the Republic of South Africa. These are countries with which we have a shared history and common values providing for a tradition of strong friendship and close partnership. We have maintained regular dialogue at a high level with them. The Presidents of the Republic of Seychelles and the Republic of South Africa were on State Visits to India in June 2010. My return visits to these countries, on their invitation, were thus a natural continuation of the exchange of high level of visits which we have with these countries on a regular basis.
My discussions in Victoria with President James Alix Michel, followed by those with Vice President Danny Faure and members of his Government were constructive and held in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Discussions in Pretoria with President Jacob Zuma, Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe and the members of his Government, underlined the course and contours of our strategic partnership with this important country in Africa.
My visit to Seychelles underscored the importance of the strong bonds of friendship and the strength of our bilateral relations with this strategically located country in the Indian Ocean. A Presidential Visit from India to Seychelles was taking place after a period of 23 years. In my discussions with the leadership in Seychelles, both countries reaffirmed the unique nature of our relationship which has a strategic outlook and coordinates of a natural partnership. Areas of bilateral cooperation in sectors such as infrastructure, transport and connectivity, tourism, environment and renewable energy were identified. I assured President James Alix Michel and his colleagues that not only would India participate in capacity building and in the human resources development sector but also in the development of the infrastructure sector in Seychelles. I was happy to announce a financial package for Seychelles of a Line of Credit of US $ 50 million and a grant of US $ 25 million. This was greatly appreciated by the Seychelles leadership and its people.
With piracy in the Indian Ocean becoming an area of grave concern to littoral and island countries, I underlined India's commitment to provide assistance to Seychelles for its security and defence needs. India provides training and deputation of experts to Seychelles. We are supplying a Dornier aircraft for Seychelles and will be setting up the Coastal Surveillance Radar System in that country. Indian Naval vessels regularly visit Seychelles on EEZ surveillance and anti-piracy patrolling missions. President Michel thanked India for ensuring the security of Seychelles and maintaining the security of the Indian Ocean region. The MOU on cooperation between the Seychelles People's Defence Force and the Bureau of Police Research Development of India would provide for training of Seychelles police and in building up its human resources in this area.
Another MOU signed during my stay in Victoria relates to cooperation in the area of Sports and Youth Affairs. This would encourage greater people to people contact, particularly among the youth between our two countries.
I had the privilege of addressing the Members of the National Assembly of Seychelles. I reiterated our shared belief in the values of democracy. This is an important cornerstone of our partnership with Seychelles. I also welcomed greater exchange of Parliamentary delegations between the two countries.
My State Visit to South Africa highlighted the strategic partnership between India and South Africa and reflected the strong historical linkage as both countries have fought against colonialism and apartheid. We have regular and frequent dialogue with South Africa and understanding on political issues. Our membership of G-20, IBSA, BRICS, BASIC and NAM has offered us opportunities to cooperate closely on issues of mutual interest.
My discussions with President Zuma and other leaders in South Africa covered the entire gamut of our bilateral relations and touched upon certain aspects of regional and international issues. Issues taken up included the comprehensive reform of the United Nations Security Council and the international financial institutions, climate change and Doha Round of trade talks to ensure greater voice for developing countries in the emerging international order. I also highlighted India's historical as also its current engagement with Africa, particularly in the context of the India Africa Forum Summit. We look forward to continued cooperation with South Africa in this process. South Africa appreciated India's historic role and engagement with the African continent as a whole and with South Africa in particular. In this context, I may mention that the contribution of ITEC in capacity building and human resource development was recalled with great appreciation by the Presidents of Seychelles and South Africa.
India-South Africa trade and economic cooperation has been extensive and has seen robust growth in recent years. The trade turnover target of US$ 10 billion has been achieved and we are now aiming at a target of US$ 15 billion by 2014. There are significant investments by leading corporate players of India and South Africa in each other's country. There are opportunities for investment in India and South Africa by our respective businesspersons in the areas of infrastructure, renewable energy, food processing, among others, which will generate more employment and economic growth in both the countries and will be mutually beneficial. In his address at the Business Forum, President Zuma emphasized that we stand ready to provide whatever support is needed to make doing business easy in our respective countries.
We agreed to monitor implementation of agreements in the field of Information Technology, Science & Technology, Tourism, Hospitality, Culture, Health, Energy and other areas of mutual benefit. People-to-people contact forms the central element in our engagement and we agreed to provide for greater support in this regard.
Cape Town is the seat of the South African Parliament. I visited the august House where I was received very warmly by the Speaker of the National Assembly Mr. Max Sisulu and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Mr. Mahlangu. This was an opportunity to exchange views on the functioning of our respective Parliaments and to agree to have regular Parliamentary exchanges. No visit to South Africa could have been complete without homage being paid to the places where the message that the human spirit cannot be crushed comes out loud and clear. I was extremely moved by my visit to Robben Island where the South African icon and legendary statesman Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for many long years. Similarly, my visits to the Freedom Park in Pretoria which recognizes the contribution of every South African and supporter of South Africa in the long struggle against colonialism and apartheid and to the John Dube Memorial in Durban had a poignant resonance. Setting foot on the same soil, which Gandhiji had walked more than a century ago, was for me a dream come true and an honour and a privilege to undertake this pilgrimage. In what I personally consider as a highly emotional and moving moment I was able to visit the Phoenix Settlement to pay homage to the place where Satyagraha took shape in the late 19th century. Gandhiji's presence through his message was very much evident in the hallowed precincts of the Phoenix Settlement and the Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg where I unveiled a bust of Mahatma Gandhi. My short train ride from Pentrich to Pietermaritzburg railway station brought back memories of the affront which Mahatma Gandhi had to endure on a cold wintery day in South Africa, which was a new incarnation of Gandhiji. There is no doubt that Barrister Gandhi's transformation to Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa is perhaps the strongest of links which binds the two countries together as they move forward in their common endeavour to provide for the betterment of the lives of their people.
I have requested support of the Government of South Africa and all the Provincial Governments in ensuring upkeep of these heritage sites. I have reiterated the continuing participation of the Government of India in this endeavour. I was happy to lay the foundation stone for the Centre for Information Technology at the Phoenix Settlement Trust. I am confident that the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and of Nelson Mandela will prove to be a source of great inspiration for future generations to come as they learn of the sacrifice of these towering personalities. In both Seychelles and South Africa, I met leading members of the Indian community. I thanked them for their contribution in reinforcing India's bond of friendship with these countries. President Michel and President Zuma had strong words of appreciation for the yeoman role played by them in this regard. As has been the practice on my overseas visits in all these years, strong business delegations accompanied me to Seychelles and South Africa. Senior Ministers were present in the India-Seychelles Business Forum Meeting in Victoria; while President Zuma himself attended the India-South Africa Business Forum Meeting in Pretoria. I am particularly grateful to both President James Alix Michel and President Jacob Zuma for making it possible to be present at all my important engagements.
I was happy that Shri Sachin Pilot, Hon'ble Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology of the Government of India assisted me during my visit. I am equally happy that Dr. Prabha Thakur and Shri Sanjay Dhotre, Members of Parliament, were able to join me on this visit and take part in interactions with Speaker, Chairman and Members of South African Parliament. My visits to both Seychelles and South Africa, I am confident, will provide impetus and momentum for further development and consolidation of our multidimensional cooperation with these countries. I have invited President James Alix Michel and President Jacob Zuma to visit India. The invitations have been accepted and mutually convenient dates would be decided through diplomatic channels.
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