S Africa, India ties set to grow

Himalayan News Service

Johannesburg, January 2:

Relations between South Africa and India that witnessed a boost in every sphere in 2004 are set to grow further in the new year.The ties are expected to get a further fillip with discussions on free trade agreements for the southern African region to be held early next year, experts here say. 2004 was dominated by a well-received visit by Indian president A P J Abdul Kalam, growing business relations in a number of areas and the increasing popularity of Bollywood cinema. There was a rather unsavoury incident this year when prominent South African judge Siraj Desai was accused of rape by a colleague in Mumbai. Initially held in a Mumbai cell, Desai was later released on bail and eventually acquitted after the woman dropped the charges. The Indian president’s visit in September strengthened relations with the South African government ever since diplomatic ties were re-established a decade ago after a break of nearly four decades due to apartheid. In a whistle-stop tour of three South African cities, Kalam made a plea for moral regeneration, launched the Gandhian centenary celebrations and promised a donation of a $177,000 from India to the Nelson Mandela Foundation projects for children, which new High Commissioner Santosh Kumar handed over later in the year as one of his first tasks.

On the business front, Tata Motors of India launched both its range of heavy vehicles and two light passenger vehicles at different events, even as Mahindra and Mahindra took on well-established competitors with its four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The head of the Tata group, Ratan Tata, also served on other forums, notably as advisor on a Special Economic committee to president Thabo Mbeki. Tata also serves as joint chairperson with South African business leader Patrice Motsepe on the India-South Africa CEO Forum launched here to boost economic growth.

In other business developments, Sahara Computers, acclaimed for a meteoric rise in Africa, joined hands with Sahara Parivar India to launch its range of IT products there.

Indian participation from small business to large industry was again a big component of the annual SAITEX Expo, which draws people from all over the world, while a partnership was forged with diamond giant De Beers and Indian companies.

The South African wine industry began looking at India as a serious growth market, and the Airports Company of South Africa hoped to win a consortium bid to run the two biggest airports in India, Mumbai and New Delhi.