Manmohan to discuss reforms in UN on South Africa visit

New Delhi, September 30 :

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he proposed to discuss major UN reforms with South African President Thabo Mbeki during a visit beginning today meant to commemorate the historic satyagraha campaign Mahatma Gandhi launched in that country a century ago.

Manmohan Singh said in a statement before departing for South Africa that he would exchange views with Mbeki over international issues as “our two countries share a common vision of a cooperative, rule-based multi-polar world order”.

“I think South Africa and India have a major role to play in carrying forward the agenda for reforms at the UN, including the expansion of permanent membership of the UN Security Council, so that the interests of the developing world are better reflected and realized,” he said.

India has teamed with up with Brazil, Germany and Japan to seek inclusion as permanent members on the UN Security Council. Manmohan Singh’s remarks indicate New Delhi may be trying to rope in South Africa as well in the efforts.

He said he would also meet Nelson Mandela, “whose life and work bear Gandhiji’s deep influence”.

Manmohan Singh, who is the first Indian prime minister to visit South Africa since IK Gujral did so in 1997, said of Mahatma Gandhi’s satyagraha campaign: “The philosophy of resisting injustice and oppression by pursuing the path of truth and non-violence was born in South Africa and is a powerful legacy shared by the people of India and South Africa. “I will visit places which mark some milestones in the Mahatma’s remarkable life; the Pietermaritzburg station where he was thrown out of an all-white train compartment, Phoenix Settlement and the Constitution Hill prison where he was incarcerated. “I will also visit the Umbilo Park Memorial where several years later, brave South Africans opposed the injustice of the apartheid regime.” That event leading to Gandhi’s ouster from the train was pivotal in his life and set him firmly on the path of satyagraha, eventually leading to India’s freedom 54 years later in 1947.

The PM said he would review bilateral relations and the India-South Africa Strategic Partnership with Mbeki. “I hope to discuss with Mbeki measures that both countries can take to further deepen our partnership.” Manmohan Singh will be visiting Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. He will go to the Phoenix settlement near Durban where the Mahatma started an agricultural commune.

The Phoenix settlement near Durban was inspired in 1904 by John Ruskin’s “Unto This Last”.