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Modi in South Africa: Eight takeaways from Prime Minister’s address to Indian diaspora

The two nations share a colonial past, as well as a national icon, Mahatma Gandhi who is revered across South Africa for his struggle against apartheid.

Updated: July 9, 2016 12:44 AM IST

By Aditya Sharma

Modi in South Africa: Eight takeaways from Prime Minister's address to Indian diaspora

New Delhi, July 7: South Africa was one of the high-priority visits for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not just because of the shared partnership on multilateral fora but also because of historic ties that connect the two nations. This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in the last 10 years. New Delhi seeks to revive the tradtional ties and boost bilateral cooperation between the India and South Africa. The two nations share a colonial past, as well as a national icon, Mahatma Gandhi who is revered across South Africa for his struggle against apartheid.

The Indian media, along with a sections of the American press has billed this visit as another effort by New Delhi to counterbalance Beijing’s influence in the continent. This obsession with the Chinese factor in all diplomatic engagement is often tends to shift the focus of discussions. While bilateral discussion are important, the Prime Minister also makes sure he addresses the Indian diaspora on all his foreign visits.

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The Indian community in South Africa is one of the largest the country. Addressing thousand of Indian South Africans in the Johannesberg, Modi sought to further stenghthen the ties and bolster India’s soft power in the continent.  Here are the ten takeaways from his address.

1. Common heritage: Modi stressed on the factors that common roots that citizens of the two nations share. “We may live on distance shores, in different time zones and one different hemispheres, our ancestors may have been separated in history, our nationalities may be different, and our support may be for different cricket teams but out common cultural, religious and spiritual heritage ensured that we remain close and connected, both in our hearts and minds.”

2. Cricket, Apartheid and ancestors: In 1991, cricket sanctions on South Africa were lifted and months later, India and South Africa played their first match. “India, which boycotted South Africa during Apartheid, was the first to embrace it after the end of apartheid,” he said. “Under decades of apartheid isolation, they not only preserved their culture, tradition and language, they also gave them new wings to flourish.”

3. Mahatma Gandhi: One of the most predicable figures to find mention in Modi’s speech, the Prime Minister quoted Gandhi’s farewell speech: “The sub continent had become to me a scared & dear land, next only to my motherland.” Modi also noted his contributions to the two nations. “It is here that Mahatma Gandhi conceptualised his politics, this is the birth place of Satyagraha,” he said. “South Africa transformed Mohandas into Mahatma.”

4. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu: In another charm-offensive, PM Modi drew a parallel between the common values of both countries. While India believes that “the world in one family”, South Africa’s core value is “a person is a person because of people,” he said.

5. Marketing India: Modi’s speech is incomplete without pitching India’s potential to prospective investors. “India, today is a land of opportunity for those who want to connect and collaborate, produce and engineer.” He urged the Indian South African to visit India: “Iss liye mai keh raha hoon, aap ek baar aake dekhiye to sahi.”

6. HOPE – Harmony, Optimism, Potential, Energy: The latest wordplay by the Prime Minister, aimed at wooing businesses and talent for enhanced economic growth. “As South Africa works for the safety and economy progress of its country, it will find in India a sustainable and reliable partner,” Modi said.

7. Global Challenges: A number challenges faced by the world, such as climate change and terrorism also found mention in Modi’s speech. Among them, “terrorism, piracy, AIDS & Ebola” were areas which the Prime Minister said “are some of the key areas of our partnership.”

8. E-visa for South Africa: An invitation for the businesses and talents were followed by the announcement of e-visas. “We launched e-visa for South Africa; you can now get visa at home without any cost,” Modi told the audience.

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