Remarks by Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Pranab Mukherjee on Commencement of 7th South Africa – India Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC), Presidential Guesthouse, Bryntirion Estate, Pretoria, Thursday 21 February 2008

Remarks by Minister Dlamini Zuma

Minister of External Affairs Minister Mukherjee, High Commissioners and the chairs of the Joint Ministerial Committee, both the Indian and South African delegations, ladies and gentlemen of the media,

On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, I am delighted to welcome Minister Mukherjee and your delegation to South Africa, especially since this is your first visit to our beautiful country and we look forward to having you visit South Africa again in the near future and you hopefully be able to take time to visit some of the interesting places in our country.

The same goes for your delegation, you are welcome to visit South Africa officially and privately and consider South Africa as your holiday destination.

And off course, I would like to extend my appreciation to you all who have been working in the different groups looking at various areas of co-operation and to say that for a change, we Ministers were also working. We had very fruitful meetings in Cape Town between the two delegations. We also met President Mbeki and Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka so we did work.

This is off course the 7th session of the JMC and undoubtedly, this commission has proven to be a very good framework for co-operation between our two countries guided by our common principles and commitment enshrined in the Red Fort Declaration of 1997 and the Delhi Declaration of 2003 and off course, the Tshwane Declaration of 2006. The partnership is aimed at creating a better life for all our people in a more peaceful and prosperous South Africa and India but also working towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.

We would like to recall, with respect, Mahatma Gandhi who as long ago as 1906 spoke of his vision for a new South Africa and we could indeed say, his vision of the world where, I quote, “all the different races co-mingle and produce a civilisation that perhaps the world has not yet seen.”

Regrettably, I do not think his vision has been achieved in the world but I think we continue to work towards it through our partnership bilaterally but also in the multilateral fora.

This partnership is based on a common commitment for economic development, social justice and co-operation for a global order that is marked by peace, security and equity.

I think we can look back on the last 2-3 years and say with confidence that we have achieved a lot in our bilateral co-operation. There has indeed been great progress in the various fields of our bilateral work – political, economic, cultural, defence, people-to-people, institution-to-institution as well as in many important fields.

But having said this, I think we should also acknowledge that we have signed many agreements. There are a number of agreements that we can say are being fully implemented and there are still those agreements that need to be attended to and also, I think we should also admit that even though our trade has increased tremendously over the past few years there is still a lot of potential. We have not reached our full potential, in trade or in any other field of co-operation and therefore this commission should really look at all areas that are lagging behind and off course, accelerate those that are already being implemented.

And off course, in our discussions, we will also have to look at various issues that affect our regions and continents and exchange views on these and off course, we also share a lot of common policies around some of the global issues.

So, I would like to say there is lots to be done, a lot has been done and you have been working hard so I will read my full address tomorrow.

I would like to welcome you. There will be other issues we will address in the JMC tomorrow.

Remarks by Minister Pranab Mukherjee

Your Excellency, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Africa, distinguished members of the South African delegation, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in Pretoria to attend the 7th session of the Joint Ministerial Commission between our two countries. The last meeting of our Joint Commission was in December 2005 in India. Much has happened since and this meeting is therefore very important for the purpose of taking stock of where we are and charting the way forward. I am glad that our way forward has been eased greatly by our sectoral working groups who have been meeting through the day

Relations between our two countries are unique, based on shared ideas, ideals and icons. The ANC's struggle for a just and democratic society was our own struggle and the common fight against apartheid forged a deep bond between leaders of India and South Africa. The challenge for us has always been how to leverage the excellent political understanding between our leaderships into concrete and beneficial outcomes for the strategic partnership between our two countries.

Since the last Joint Commission Meeting, we have had several exchanges at the highest political levels. From the South African side, the Deputy President has been to India and from India we have had two visits by Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, a visit by Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and several by our Cabinet Ministers. We need to maintain the momentum of these visits. This year, we look forward to receiving President Mbeki twice in India, first for the India-Africa Forum Summit, which will be held from April 4-9, 2008 and then for the 3rd IBSA Summit later in the year.

The strategic partnership, which was first articulated by President Mbeki when he visited India as Deputy President in 1996, has been in operation in a number of areas. We have almost 30 bilateral agreements in diverse fields. However, implementation has been patchy. This is an issue that has preoccupied our leaders as well. We, therefore, need to give a renewed push to all our sectoral Ministries to ensure time-bound outcomes in all fields of joint endeavour. I have already discussed this with Your Excellency and we both agree that the theme for this JMC should be 'Action and Implementation'. In particular, we need to focus our attention on those Agreements where not a single meeting has taken place so far. These include important sectors such as Communications & IT and Health & Medicine. We must ensure that their Working Groups meet at the earliest possible opportunity.

We will tomorrow also sign a number of new Agreements which will further enlarge the area of our bilateral cooperation. These are Agreements on customs cooperation, exemption of visas for official and diplomatic passport holders and a programme of cooperation in science and technology. Here too we must ensure timely implementation.

I would like to submit for your consideration that the implementation of these agreements as also the decisions of the Joint Ministerial Commission be reviewed during annual Foreign Office Consultations. The meetings of the JMC could be regularized once in two years. If we can have your agreement to this arrangement, both sides can proceed on this basis.

I am also glad to note that apart from bilateral cooperation, our trilateral cooperation under the IBSA framework is also gaining momentum. Excellency, India considers IBSA to be a unique forum which brings together on a common platform three major developing democracies from three continents. Following the successful 2nd IBSA Summit in South Africa, we have a total of 16 sectoral Working Groups. In the IBSA context too, our effort should be to identify at least half a dozen areas for concerted attention in which we must aim for concrete outcomes. I would suggest that we focus in priority areas of cooperation, namely, transportation including shipping and civil aviation, tourism, trade and investment, infrastructure, SMEs, capacity building and information society. We have finalized the dates for the trilateral Ministerial Commission which South Africa has kindly consented to hold in the beautiful city of Cape Town. We have also communicated dates in mid-October for the Summit that India is honoured to host.

An issue to which both our countries attach the greatest importance is the reform and expansion of the UN Security Council. We believe that the reform and expansion of the UN Security Council, in both permanent and non-permanent categories, is central to the process of UN reform and hope that the member states would soon be able to initiate element-based and result-oriented inter governmental negotiations during the current 62nd session of the UNGA with a view to achieve progress on this issue. We believe South Africa can play an important role in the overall process, within AU and in coordinated efforts of the AU and G-4.

We also look forward to continue receiving South Africa’s valuable support to India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UNSC for 2011-2012.

Another issue of global importance is the fight against international terrorism. India, in particular, has been battling the evil of international terrorism for over two decades. At a time when forces of intolerance and fundamentalism are gaining ground and organizations such as Al-Qaeda are expanding their presence, it is all the more imperative for all like-minded countries to come together in a global coalition against violence and terrorism. In this context, we welcome the ongoing cooperation between our delegations at the UN on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. I once again reiterate the need for India and South Africa to engage in a bilateral dialogue on Counter-Terrorism through the aegis of a JWG on Counter-terrorism. This subject was discussed at some length during the visit to India by your Home Ministry team in December, 2007. We expect to see some forward movement on this.

Both India and South Africa have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the development dimension of the WTO Doha Round and have welcomed the strengthened engagement, solidarity, and cooperation among developing countries in that process. The Doha Round of trade negotiations is entering a critical stage. These negotiations are now in a genuine multilateral process, with draft texts for agriculture and industrial goods that provide a good basis for negotiations. Both India and South Africa have committed themselves to carry out negotiations towards an outcome that is fair and acceptable to all.

Climate change has emerged as a major international challenge. We are committed to finding practical and pragmatic strategies of addressing this challenge. Such strategies should not add greater burden or impose further conditionalities on the developmental objectives of countries like India. The principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities is important. I am glad that the Bali Conference has reaffirmed the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The long term convergence of per capita emissions of developed and developing countries is also an important principle that should be seriously considered in the context of the international climate change negotiations.

Just as we value our relations with South Africa, we value our relations with the rest of Africa. Our hosting of the India-Africa Forum Summit in April 2008 is the beginning of a process. How we take this forward will depend on the outcome of the Summit. I look forward to our deliberations during the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on April 7, 2008. Before that, the Senior Officials will meet on April 4. We also look forward to receiving President Mbeki in New Delhi for the Summit meeting on April 8.

The formal outcome documents of the Summit would be a Declaration and an Action Plan. The draft of the Action Plan has been circulated by the AU to the member states. We await the response of South Africa. The second document, which will be a Declaration, will address broader areas of cooperation. The areas on which we wish to focus include human resources, institutional capacity building and education, science & technology, agricultural productivity and food security, industrial growth including small & medium enterprises and minerals, development in the health sector, development of infrastructure, ICT and establishment of judicial system with police and defence establishments under civilian control, etc. Over the next two weeks, the officials on both sides will meet in Addis Ababa for further discussions on the draft declaration and the draft Plan of Action.

On the economic side, I am happy to note that our bilateral trade excluding gold bullion has reached USD 4.7 billion in 2006-07 and is growing at an impressive rate. Both our countries have been proactive in promoting visits of business delegations and in showcasing our products and technologies through mega exhibitions. From India, we have had the two CII Conclaves, the India Calling Conference by the Indian Merchants' Chamber and, most recently, INDEE 2007, the biggest ever expo of Indian engineering products in South Africa. I hope that the Sub-committee on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation will undertake a comprehensive review of the volume and composition of bilateral trade and two-way flow of investments, and discuss and share promotional plans that both countries have for the coming years.

While we acknowledge that trade will largely be driven by the private sector, it is the role of the two Governments to provide a facilitating environment. In this context, we greatly welcome the holding of the first round of talks on the India-SACU PTA in October last year and the second round which has just about concluded in Windhoek. We look forward to the early signing of the MOU so that substantive negotiations can begin in earnest. I must also highlight the imperative need to finalize the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which will increase the comfort level of investors in both countries.

Civil Aviation is another sector that needs priority attention. It is widely acknowledged that the present capacity on the India-South Africa sector is inadequate. While we are actively encouraging Air India to resume operations to South Africa, we would also request South African support for facilitating unencumbered permission for Jet Airways as also Air India's code share arrangement with South African Airways, both to South Africa and to Brazil. This was also raised by our PM with President Mbeki on the sidelines of the 2007 IBSA Summit.

In the Defence field, we are glad to note that the next meeting of the Joint Defence Committee will be held on March 13-14, 2008 in India. The aim expressed by our two leaders in the Tshwane Declaration of moving beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint production and development must be pursued.

One avoidable hindrance to the freer movement of businesspersons and tourists is the visa regime. We, on our side, are committed to ensuring that visas are given on the same day and without insistence on cumbersome documentation. We would request similar flexibility from the South African side so that letters from apex chambers of commerce, such as CII and FICCI, and the High Commission are honoured and bonafide tourists and businesspersons are not inconvenienced. I have been assured by the Foreign Minister that the South African side is looking into our suggestions.

We remain committed to partnering South Africa in alleviating the skills shortage, particularly through the JIPSA programme spearheaded by the Deputy President. I am glad to note that not only the Government of India, but several Indian private companies are contributing to make this programme a success. We have increased the number of ITEC slots to South Africa from 55 to 100. I am glad to note that all of them are being fully utilized. CII is also setting up an IT Centre for Excellence in South Africa and imparting artisanal skills to 100 South African youth in Hyderabad in collaboration with the Umsobomvu Youth Fund.

I am happy to learn of the increasing linkages between our two countries in the field of higher education. I understand delegations from several South African universities have already been to India. We especially laud the decision of the University of Witwatersrand to set up a Centre of Indian Studies in Africa which will be the first 'India-Focus' centre in Africa. The establishment of the Gandhi-Luthuli Chair in the University of Kwazulu Natal has also lent further impetus to academic interaction.

I am told that the South African Government is keen to recruit maths and science teachers from India. We would be happy to assist you in this process. We have a PSU called Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) which has a proven track record in this sector and we would be happy to facilitate a visit by EdCIL to take this process forward.

In Science & Technology, our two countries have much to offer each other. We are keen to cooperate in areas such as nano-science and oceanographic science and to partner you in the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) project. On Space, our two countries can also have a fruitful partnership. We have proposed an MOU for cooperation in space applications on which we await a response.

We must also not underestimate the importance of culture. Given the fact that the closest bond between our two countries is the bond between our peoples, it is important that both sides make extra effort to showcase their cultural offerings and to take them to areas outside the metros. I am happy to note that we have had several Indian artistes visit South Africa through the aegis of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) as also under the "Shared Histories" festival. The visit of the South African Minister of Arts and Culture to India in December 2007 has helped revitalize bilateral cultural cooperation. I understand that the South African exhibition “Scratches on the Face” has been very well received in India.

In conclusion, Madame Minister, my delegation and I are extremely satisfied with the substantive and in-depth discussions that we have had on all the areas in which our two countries are jointly engaged. I am confident that these will make the 7th Session of the Joint Commission a success and lay the basis for an even more diversified and productive partnership in the years to come.

Thank you.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

21 February 2008

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