Wed, Oct 04, 2006 - Page 6 News List

India, S Africa buttress ties

AFP , PRETORIA

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday signed a pact to buttress ties between two powers that serve as spokesmen for the world's have-nots.

Singh's visit coincided with the centenary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance movement launched in South Africa that ultimately helped liberate both countries.

"This is a most satisfying visit for me personally as it coincides with Gandhiji's 137th birthday today," Singh said, using the honorific for Gandhi, after signing the strategic partnership with Mbeki.

"Both our countries face the common problem of ensuring that the fruits of development reach those who need them the most," he told a joint press conference.

South Africa, India and Brazil have formed a bloc which fights against global trade inequalities and espouses the cause of the developing world.

"Our two countries share a common vision of a cooperative, rule-based multi-polar world order," Singh said.

The Indian prime minister and Mbeki have met three times in as many weeks -- in Brazil and Cuba, where they attended two different summits, and here in South Africa.

South Africa is India's biggest trading partner in Africa, Singh said.

"Many of our Indian companies are here and are rapidly expanding their business presence. The rapid growth of the Indian economy offers significant opportunities to both sides," he said.

Singh was accompanied by a high-level Indian business team including Ratan Tata, the boss of India's Tata conglomerate. Tata has made huge investments in South Africa and is selling products ranging from cars to computers.

The Pretoria agreement was followed by the signing of a pact on cooperation in education and another between Indian Railways, which runs one of the world's biggest networks, and South African railway company Spoornet.

The declaration identified energy, tourism, health, automobiles and auto components, chemicals, dyes, textiles, fertilizers and information technology as "priority sectors" as well as India's "key information technology sector."

It said bilateral trade, standing at some US$4 billion last year, according to Indian estimates, should "at least treble by 2010."

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