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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
South Africa embraces 'cousin' India
By Mark Dummett
BBC News, Delhi

Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi shakes hands with South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Trade between India and South Africa jumped by 25% last year
One hundred years ago this week Mahatma Gandhi launched his civil disobedience campaign in South Africa.

It was the beginning of the struggle there against racial discrimination and oppression.

Gandhi's Satyagraha movement of non-violence then led to the freedom from colonial rule of his home country, India.

It also forged a powerful bond between the two nations, which, according to South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, ties them together like cousins.

Thabo Mbeki's number two is now in Delhi, along with a large trade delegation, to strengthen the already improving economic links with India.

Long relationship

Trade between the South Asian giant and Africa's largest economy jumped by 25% to more than $4bn (2.1bn) last year.

The two governments want that figure to hit $12bn by the end of the decade - and they are encouraging firms to work in partnership.

Our relationship has stood the test of time
Mfanu Mfayela, CEO of Saccom

"We can never compete with India. I think we have been very clear we are looking for co-operation," said Mfanu Mfayela, CEO of Saccom, the trade body of South African outsourcing companies.

"We have a very long relationship with India, and I think our relationship has stood the test of time, and we know how to interact with each other. It comes naturally."

Although India has a much bigger economy, both sides believe they can work together in sharing technology, know-how and people.

"The complementarities between the two economies have always been there," explained Shipra Tripathi, director of the Confederation of Indian Industry.

"But now it has been greatly recognised by Indian industry, as well as by South Africa industry," she said.

One vision

The South African trade delegation's visit to India is just one part of a wider strategy by both sets of leaders to establish a strong strategic partnership stretching across the Indian Ocean.

India's PM Manmohan Singh, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki shake hands
India, Brazil and South Africa want to reduce dependence on the West

On Wednesday, President Mbeki and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh formally inaugurated their "south-south" alliance, along with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, at a summit in Brasilia.

The three countries forged their relationship out of the last round of world trade talks.

They have similar ambitions and problems - all three are targeting high rates of growth, but suffer from massive inequality and entrenched rural poverty.

They also want to reduce dependence on the West.

"We share the same vision of democratic and economic freedom for our people and indeed we are all driving programmes that will ensure that our economic growth is shared by all our people," Mrs Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

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05 Sep 06 |  Country profiles

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