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South South – Africa Asia

By Srimal Fernando Global Editor The Diplomatic Society
Historical evidence reveal thousands of years of dynamic interaction between Asians and Africans, long before colonial record.  Over 150 years ago ‘The Truro’ sailed from the Indian port city of Madras  and the  ‘The Belvedere’ left  Calcutta  with Indian indentured labourers to a port in Natal, South Africato work on the vast sugar cane fields. The ships arrived in November 1860.

Photo: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South African President Jacob Zuma

Fifty years later Mahatma Gandhi began his Satyagraha movement. Satyagraha meaning truth force became a non-violent resistance and civil disobedience campaign against a racist and unjust colonial system in South Africa and emerged as an effective campaign that ousted the imperial British from India.   

“India is the Mahatma’s country of birth; South Africa is his country of adoption” said Shri Sushma Swaraj, Indian External Affairs Minister speaking at the Inauguration  of the 3rd India Africa Forum Summit held in India on 25 October 2015.

A look at India - South Africa Relations

Due to the isolation of South Africa during the boycott of the inhumane Apartheid regime, South African Indians, who number around 2 million, consider themselves South African. According to the 2015 World Bank report, Africa is regarded as the second-fastest growing region in the world and six of the ten fastest growing economies of the world originate from Africa. South Africa is one of the top economies in Africa. South Africa is a member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping since 2011.   

Bilateral trade between South Africa and India has changed remarkably since the mid-1990s. South African trade with India reached US$ 9.4 billion in 2016 and is growing (Ministry of Commerce, Government of India 2015-16).  On 8th July 2016 South African  President Jacob Zuma  addressing  South Africa-India Business Forum said,  “We have set ourselves ambitious goals, including a bilateral target of advancing trade to the level of eighteen billion US dollars by 2018”. Data shows that air traffic and tourism has experienced continued growth between the two countries over the decades.  India became South Africa's 8th largest long-haul tourism source market with73,902 arrivals by September 2016 (Source.tourismupdate)

South Africa – Sri Lanka relations reach new heights
Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma and Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena

Sri Lanka traditionally follows a non-alignment foreign policy.  Looking back into the history of Sri Lanka- South Africa relations, former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike took further steps to steer Sri Lankan foreign policy closer to South Africa.   Late Prime Minister Bandaranaike has shown sensitivities towards the South African issue in the early 70s. “Racism in Southern Africa is a residue of old colonialism elaborately entrenched on the myth that some people are born superior to others on grounds of colour said Sirimavo Bandaranaike at the 5th Non-Aligned Summit held in Colombo in 1976 (Sri Lanka High Commission of Sri Lanka  in South Africa, 2016). Since then there have been enhanced contacts between South Africa and the Indian Ocean island nation.

This year, 2017, marks the 20th year of establishing a resident Sri Lanka Mission in Pretoria, South Africa and it also marks the 10th year of establishing a resident South Africa Mission in Colombo. This is a land mark year for the diplomatic relations between the two countries

Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations with the newly formed post Apartheid Government of South Africa on 12th September 1994, following the end of Apartheid in South Africa. The relations between Sri Lanka and South Africa were further strengthened with the exchange of High Commissioners between the two countries, and the establishment of a resident Sri Lanka diplomatic Mission in Pretoria on 1st October 1997. The Government of South Africa established its resident diplomatic Mission in Colombo in September 2007.

The appointment of High Commissioner Robina Marks as the new South African  envoy  to Sri Lanka  elevated bilateral  relations and gave fresh  impetus and sought new direction for the future of both political and  economic ties. H.E Marks is also the High Commissioner to the Maldives and Bangladesh; as well as Ambassador Plenipotentiary to Nepal. In an interview with The Diplomatic Society H.E Marks said that she is looking forward to enhancing trade relations with all four countries, to encourage investment and technology transfer to South Africa and showcase her beautiful country as a tourist destination( Diplomatic Society  2016).

Another landmark in the relations between the two counties was the Sixth Session of the Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Partnership Forum between Sri Lanka and South Africa that was held in Pretoria on 7 April 2017. These engagements have paved the way for greater trade opportunities and business investments.

Active South African participation in South Asian affairs is leading to closer economic integration with Sri Lanka. The largest South African.imports to Sri Lanka is coal, similar solid fuels manufactured from coal, beverages and spirits. Sri Lanka exported tea worth US$ 7.3 million and imported coal and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal worth US$ 19 million from South Africa (Sri Lanka High Commission of Sri Lanka in South Africa, 2016).
Pakistan and South Africa Diplomatic Ties can look to the future

South Africa and Pakistan relations have witnessed a strong growth in various areas including the commercial sector. In this context of South Africa - Pakistan relations are aiming for a two-way turnover of US$1 billion in trade. At the third session of the Pakistan-South Africa Joint Commission meeting, Deputy Director General of Asia and the Middle East at South Africa's Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Anil Sooklal  said, “We can even surplus the set trade target if trade mechanism is improved.”.

The diplomatic relations between   South Africa and South Asia can look to the future.  For the last twenty years the relations between South Asian countries and South Africa have grown from strength to strength in both scope and depth and spans many different areas of cooperation.



March 2018






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