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India and South Africa to focus on maritime security and joint defence ventures

Huma Siddiqui
india south africa ties, narendra modi, Cyril Ramaphosa, Narendra Modi, FDI, IBSA, IORA, BRICS

Deeper collaboration in the defence sector will be the top agenda of talks between India and South Africa next week. Accompanied by a high level delegation South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be visiting India at the invitation of by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as a chief guest at India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations on Jan 26.

Sources confirmed to Financial Express Online, Defence sector in India is one of the sectors witnessing a complete transformation and that it offers exciting opportunities, with the government announcing 100 per cent FDI. There are immense opportunities for companies from both sides to jointly develop and manufacture for both forces as well as global demand.

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As reported earlier, South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel is free to do business with the Indian government and Indian companies. The company is suited for ammunition supplies to the armed forces in which Indian companies have to create new facilities. Denel was one of the prime contenders for small arms, ammunition and artillery programs in the 1980s in India.

The two countries are also working together through IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) has emerged as a key platform of engagement for the maritime neighbours connected by the Indian Ocean where South Africa is holding chairmanship of the organisation for 2017-19. From the perspective of the maritime security, the waters of the Indian Ocean are common sea frontiers of both the countries.

While IORA was formed in 1997, it was revived under India s lead from 2011-13, Australia from 2013-15 and Indonesia from 2015-17.

As reported by Financial Express Online earlier, aiming to build interoperability and mutual understanding as well as sharing of best practices, the 6th edition of IBSAMAR, a joint multi-national maritime exercise between the Indian, Brazilian and South African Navies, was held at Simons Town, South Africa in Oct 2018.

Initiated in 2006, ‘Exercise IBSAMAR’ is the most visible manifestation of convergence of democratic values, economic interests and maritime cooperation. South Africa had along with three platforms SAS Amatola, SAS Protea and SAS Manthatisi the South African Navy sent in elements of its maritime reaction squadron.

According to a IBSA dialogue forum Joint communiqu issued after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met with her counterparts from Brazil and South Africa on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the UNGA in New York City last year, the member countries emphasized their importance as a positive example of trilateral cooperation in defense and confirmed the continuity of these activities as well as the exploration of new initiatives with great potential in that field.

South Africa is also a member of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) an extremely significant regional maritime security initiative launched by India in February 2008 under the aegis of the Indian Navy. This seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the IOR (Indian Ocean Rim) by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues. Besides India, other member countries including the UAE, South Africa, Australia, Bangladesh and Iran have held the chairmanship of IONS.

The company s troubles in India started in 2005, after the defence ministry put all contracts with it on hold. Investigations probed two contracts that the firm had signed in India, a Rs 78 crore deal for procurement of 400 anti material rifles and a Rs 66 crore transfer of technology contract with the Ordnance Factory Board but failed to find any proof of corruption.