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Durban, South Africa , 6th May, 2012


I came to this beautiful country at the invitation of His Excellency Jacob Zuma, the President of the Republic of South Africa. I visited Pretoria and Cape Town, and had very fruitful discussions with the leadership of this important country, with whom we enjoy close and strategic relations, straddling the Indian Ocean. It is my privilege and honour to visit the land of two of the greatest heroes of our time: Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

Today is Buddha Purnima, one of the most auspicious days in India. It marks the birth of Lord Buddha, as also the day on which he achieved enlightenment and Nirvana. His message of non-violence and equality found renaissance far and wide. It is a happy coincidence that it was today, that I visited Phoenix Settlement established by Mahatma Gandhi, who is one of the greatest apostles of peace of our times. Going there was like a pilgrimage for me and I was overwhelmed with the experience. Therefore, when I leave the shores of South Africa tomorrow, it will be with a sense of having completed a Yatra and with many pleasant memories of this rainbow nation.

When the passengers of S.S. Truro disembarked at Addington Beach in November 1860, the people of Indian origin began a new life in this country. Thirty three years later, in May 1893, Gandhiji arrived in South Africa and this opened a new chapter in the lives of Indians in South Africa. The last 151 years have been a remarkable journey of struggle, sacrifice, achievement and progress for them. Virtually every generation has produced outstanding leaders who have contributed to the development of South Africa. Hard work is a corner stone of the South African Indian community. It is, therefore, no wonder that the Indian community here has had great success through its own efforts in the social, economic and political life of South Africa. I was very happy when during my visit, President Zuma spoke of support and solidarity of India in their freedom movement and of the contributions of South Africans of Indian descent, to enriching nation building process of South Africa. I am proud of all of you. The recent and sudden passing away of Mr. Roy Padayachie, Minister for Public Service and Administration, and an eminent person of Indian origin, is a loss to the South African nation. My condolences to his family.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In India, as we look back on the past one and half century of the Indian community in South Africa, we often recall your contribution in the freedom struggle and nation building process. Yesterday, when at Robben Island, Ahmed Kathrada, who was among those imprisoned with Nelson Mandela, told about their days of imprisonment, it brought to the fore the immense courage and strength of character of these extraordinary individuals. South Africans of Indian origin - Ahmed Kathrada, Yusuf Dadoo, Monty Naicker and many others - worked solidly and with solidarity with their South African brethren for freedom and justice.

I am aware that in 2010, South Africa commemorated the 150th year of the arrival of Indians in South Africa. We also organized the first ever Diaspora Conference on the African continent, here in Durban, on October 2, 2010 in partnership with the provincial Government of Kwa-Zulu Natal. I am thankful to His Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Majesty King Goodwill and Hon'ble Premier of Kwa-Zulu Natal, Dr. Zweli Mkhize for supporting this event.

The huge and diverse community of Overseas Indians about 27 million, living in about 110 countries has shown tremendous enterprise and there are many success stories. They have earned goodwill for the country wherever they are settled. In India, every year, we celebrate Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on 9th January. It is the day which marks the return of Mahatma Gandhiji to India from South Africa, a country where he lived for 21 years. In an article in the TIME Magazine while describing Gandhiji as 'Sacred Warrior', Nelson Mandela said, and I quote, "Gandhi was both an Indian and a South African citizen. Both countries contributed to his intellectual and moral genius, and he shaped the liberatory movements in both colonial theaters". Unquote.

The cooperation between South Africa and India is historical, and focuses on empowerment of people and institutions through human resource development. Mahatma Gandhi once said, and I quote, "The commerce between India and Africa will be of ideas and services, not of manufactured goods against raw materials." Unquote. We will soon have a Gandhi Memorial at 95 Prince Edward Street in Durban. This was the property purchased by Mahatma Gandhi in 1897 for use as the office of the Natal Indian Congress. The facilities there could be used for organizing socially relevant seminars and workshops.

India will also establish an IT center at the Phoenix Settlement soon, in consultation with the Government of South Africa and the Trust authorities. India subscribes to the philosophy that human resources are the greatest assets of any nation.

In conclusion, I congratulate the people of Indian Origin who are today proud South Africans for their dedication and commitment. We are also confident that in the years to come, the Indian Diaspora will continue to play an increasingly pro-active and pioneering role to enhance their contribution to the Rainbow Nation - South Africa. Today, I wish you all further success and prosperity and appreciate what you do for your country of citizenship - South Africa.

You are uniquely placed to contribute to the growing bilateral ties between India and South Africa, and I would urge you to fully utilize the emergent opportunities in so many different areas. South Africa is a symbol for integration and inclusiveness, and I wish to convey my heartiest congratulations to the people and the Government of South Africa.

I convey to all present here, my best wishes for their progress, prosperity and success.

Jai Hind !

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