By SA News
As part of efforts to deepen relations with India, South Africa has invited the Asian nation to invest in the country’s massive infrastructure plan announced in the State of the Nation Address.
“We have once again extended an invitation to Indian business to invest in our infrastructure development programme, in which we are to invest more than R800 billion until 2014,” President Jacob Zuma said.
This would translate into R300 billion in the energy sector and R262 billion in transport and logistics projects.
Zuma was speaking following a meeting with Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, whose official state visit to South Africa began on Wednesday.
The President deemed the visit as significant due to the fact that relations between the two countries date back many years. South Africa and India also share a history of struggle against colonial oppression and racism.
“We also share deep social, economic and cultural ties,” noted the President.
Bilateral trade in 2011 between the two countries stood at R53.7 billion with South Africa exporting goods to the value of R24.4 billion to India. South Africa imported goods to the value of R29.3 billion.
Zuma said although trade was increasing steadily, “we should all work to reach even higher figures”.
Patil said relations between the two nations had taken on a robust and dynamic character, adding that strong ties and institutional frameworks for dialogue and co-operation in economic, political and technological areas were evident.
“Our bilateral relations today are wide-ranging, multi-dimensional and mutually beneficial. Our shared and abiding commitment to the ideals of democracy has only reinforced our close and friendly ties,” she said at the joint press conference following a meeting with Zuma.
Patil said her visit formed part of high-level exchanges to re-affirm India’s commitment to taking its relations with South Africa further. Her visit follows an invitation by Zuma.
Issues discussed between the two leaders, she said, were wide-ranging and included international issues as well as the reform of financial institutions. These also included areas of opportunities in the trade area.
The two countries have set a bilateral trade target of R111 billion to be reached by 2014.
“We felt that considerable opportunities need to be explored,” explained Patil, who is due to retire in July.
Patil is said to be in the country with a government minister, four parliamentarians, various officials and a business delegation.
Both Presidents are to partake in a business forum tomorrow, where, according to Patil, the Presidents will listen to the captains of industries.
Additionally, the two countries, who are part of various forums including BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa), will monitor the implementation of agreements between them.
In March, Zuma visited India to partake in the fourth Brics Summit.
“We have agreed to monitor the implementation of various agreements that exist,” said Patil, adding that the two countries were looking into expanding these into the areas of health, science and technology and infrastructure, among others.
Cooperation agreements have been signed in trade, investment, education, defence, information and communication technology (ICT).
Zuma said: “In our talks, we reflected on how we can further translate our historical ties into meaningful socio-economic development cooperation. Progress in being made in that regard.”
The two countries were also in the process of negotiating a preferential trade agreement that will accelerate trade flows and extend the range of traded goods, the South African High Commissioner to India Harris Majeke said at a business seminar held in India in March.
Patil added that India was interested in working with South Africa to develop a Ghandi heritage site in South Africa, adding that she was mindful of the sporting ties between the two countries. This as South African Gary Kirsten helped India win the Cricket World Cup in 2011.
Zuma added that people of Indian descent had contributed to South Africa in various fields.
Patil is expected to depart South Africa on 7 May.