Toast Remarks at a State Dinner hosted by The President of India
16 October 2003

Your Excellency, President of India, Shri Dr Abdul Kalam,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee,
Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

Your Excellency, may I take this opportunity to offer our belated congratulations on your birthday which you celebrated yesterday. My wife, the entire South African delegation and I rejoice in being here in New Delhi in the midst of your gracious and generous hospitality.

India holds a special place in our hearts and we convey the warmest greetings of the government and people of South Africa to your Excellency, to Prime Minister Vajpayee, to your government and to our special friends and comrades, the people of India.

As we know, India and South Africa share a special bond of kinship that goes back several centuries. Many Indians were forcefully brought to South Africa as slaves and as indentured labourers.

In time, they forged alliances with the Africans who were engaged in the bitter struggle to defend their land and independence. Indeed, one of those who best represented this struggle for freedom and independence in South Africa and India was the indomitable Mahatma Gandhi who through his work in our two countries, has taught all of us that one can be both foreign and at home.

Words cannot express our immense gratitude for your outspoken and critical opposition to apartheid, the material and moral support given to us, and the manner in which you embraced our cause and gave many activists and freedom fighters a home away from home.

This year marks the tenth year since our two countries resumed diplomatic relations, a period in which we have achieved many important milestones in our mutual efforts to improve the lives of our peoples. In our common struggle against poverty and underdevelopment, we have worked together at various international forums to advance the cause of the poor and the marginalised in the world.

Yet, we agree that much more needs to be done to ensure faster change both in our countries and internationally. I am confident that we will continue to further strengthen our bonds and ensure that we work closer together to accelerate the pace of development in both our countries.

We share common goals and values in the same spirit in which our predecessors signed the Red Fort Declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth year of India's independence, which is based on a shared commitment for economic development, social justice and co-operation for a global order that is marked by peace, security and equity.

We recognise the sacrifices the Interim Government of India made when it severed relations with apartheid South Africa.

However, we are heartened that since the re-establishment of relations between our countries a decade ago, our trade has grown from an almost zero base to over R9 billion and the two-way investment in each others countries now amounts to US$42 million. Clearly, while there is some growth, the trade and investment flows are very small.

Undoubtedly, we need to increase the economic co-operation between our countries and ensure a more vigorous inter - action better co-operation between our business people. Today, we have signed several bilateral agreements that should further strengthen our relations.

We want to also thank you for your commitment to assisting us in the areas of biotechnology, transport, training and development, especially to the South African Navy and ICT, benefiting young South African technicians doing software development, focusing on solutions for agriculture and rural development.

Your visionary leadership, of aspiring to reach developed country status by year 2020 -through Science and Technology, gives us more courage in this partnership.

Your Excellency,

Today, in less than a decade of freedom, we are confronted with immense challenges of tackling poverty, hunger, disease and underdevelopment. As we all know, this is a grave phenomenon repeated across the developing world. It is for this reason that, in July of this year, India, Brazil and South Africa have signed a declaration to constitute the IBSA Dialogue Forum.

As Africans, we are engaged in a very important programme of the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). We are confident that together we will strengthen the partnership and ensure that the India-Africa Fund makes the necessary impact in the process of the renewal of Africa.

Your Excellency,

We will continue to do whatever we can to encourage speedy resolutions to the conflicts in the Middle East. We have an obligation to help deliver to the people of Iraq, Palestine and Israel a permanent peace and stable environment.

May I thank His Excellency for extending such cordial and charming welcome to us. We look forward with much enthusiasm to our visits to Mumbai and Hyderabad where we hope to see at first hand why India has occupied a pre-eminent role in the advancement of modern technology.

Naturally, we would be delighted and honoured for your Excellencies to grace our shores where you would surely be welcomed with much joy to your home-from-home.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health of His Excellency, Shri Dr Abdul Kalam and to this very special friendship between the people of India and South Africa.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa