The interlinked narratives of a rising India and a resurgent Africa are in the spotlight as India hosts South African President Cyril Rampahosa, the leader of the continent’s second largest economy, as Guest of Honour at the country’s 70th Republic Day celebrations.
President Ramaphosa is the first African leader to be invited to the Republic Day celebrations in decades and the second South African leader to be accorded this singular honour, which underscores special relations between the two countries. The choice of President Ramaphosa as chief guest for India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations also signals Africa’s rising profile in the country’s diplomatic-geopolitical calculus. Only a few days ago, India organized an “Africa Day” as part of the Vibrant Gujarat annual business conclave, the first time a day was dedicated to an entire continent at such a global event.
Economic diplomacy is high on Mr Ramaphosa’s agenda as he seeks the support of the world’s fastest growing major economy for his project of national economic rejuvenation. The South African leader has set an ambitious target of garnering $100 billion foreign investment for the next five years, and in this investment pitch he sees an important role for India and Indian companies. The business focus of the visit is evident as he touched down in India on January 25, with a heavyweight business delegation, comprising CEOs and head honchos of 50 South African companies. B2B business deals are expected to be firmed up during the India-South Africa Business Forum, which will be jointly addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ramaphosa.
Bilateral trade is currently around $10 billion. The two sides are expected to firm up plans for scaling up trade to achieve the trade target of $20 billion.
The two leaders held wide-ranging talks in New Delhi on January 25 and unveiled a three-year roadmap for accelerating bilateral economic and strategic relations across the spectrum.
Besides trade and investment, the talks also saw a deepening strategic connect as the two countries decided to expand cooperation in counter-terror cooperation, maritime security and joint development of the blue economy.
In the last nearly five years, two-way diplomatic interactions between India and Africa have acquired an unprecedented intensity: 29 visits from India to African countries at the level of President, Vice President and Prime Minister, apart from several Ministerial visits, have taken place.. Besides hosting the largest gathering of African leaders on the Indian soil at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III), in which 41 Heads of State/Heads of Government participated, India rolled out the red carpet for over 35 leaders from Africa and several ministers in the last four years. India’s diplomatic footprints in a rising continent are set to expand with the government’s decision to open 18 new Embassies and High Commissions in Africa in the next few years, which will take the number of Indian Missions in the continent to 47. The first of these Missions has already been opened in Rwanda last year.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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