Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who arrived in South Africa on Saturday, will, during his four-day visit, discuss major UN reforms with the South African President Thabo Mbeki, besides signing a number of bilateral agreements on a wide range of subjects including one on preferential trade, investment and energy cooperation.
Dr. Singh will also participate in the centenary celebrations to commemorate the launch of Satyagraha by Mahatma Gandhi in Durban.
Dr. Singh had 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.
Dr. 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.
Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit South Africa since I.K. 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, Dr. Singh said, adding, 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 Prime Minister 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, he said. South Africa is India's biggest trading partner in the African continent. Many Indian companies are expanding their business presence there. Similarly, I think that there is much that South Africa can offer India.
I hope we will be able to identify steps to enhance our current commercial and economic relationship, the Prime Minister concluded.
Dr. Manmohan Singh will be visiting Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. He will also go to the Phoenix settlement near Durban where the Mahatma started an agricultural commune.
The two countries are expected to sign a clutch of agreements in the fields of railways, education and cooperation in science and technology.
A preferential trade agreement with South African Customs Union (SACU) and agreements for bilateral investment protection and cooperation in agriculture and sports are also under consideration.
The leaders of the two countries will address a joint press conference before Dr. Singh flies back on Tuesday.
Nuclear cooperation will also be among the key subjects of discussions between Dr. Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki with Indian sources hoping for a positive and pragmatic approach from South Africa on it.
A member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), this uranium-rich country has indicated that it was willing to cooperate in nuclear energy. NSG will have to back the Indo-US nuclear deal if it goes through, to enable India to receive nuclear fuel.
South Africa had been highly critical of India's nuclear tests, but now appears to be willing to cooperate in civilian nuclear energy with New Delhi.