New Delhi: Chief guest for this year’s Republic Day parade, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa was accorded ‘guard of honour’ at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday morning.

Following that, Ramaphosa also paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

In his first visit to India as the head of the state, Ramaphosa is reportedly accompanied by nine ministers and a 50-member business delegation. He is also the second South African president, after late Nelson Mandela, to be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

Ramaphosa will have a meeting and hold delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on bilateral, regional and global issues, the External Affairs ministry said. On Friday, he will also address the India-South Africa Business Forum.

As a part of the celebrations of the 15th anniversary of IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Dialogue Forum, Ramaphosa will deliver the Gandhi-Mandela Freedom Lecture organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs. Ramaphosa’s visit is expected to boost bilateral ties that were in the doldrums since former president Jacob Zuma stepped down last year after a series of corruption charges against him linking him with the Gupta brothers.

The External Affairs ministry said India and South Africa have had a “close and multifaceted strategic partnership since 1997” and Ramaphosa’s visit is expected to “further strengthen and enhance the close relationship”.

India is among the top five trading partners of South Africa and Ramaphosa’s visit is to further cement those ties.

“The visit of President Ramaphosa, and that too during the special occasion of India’s Republic Day will further cement business and people-to-people ties between India and South Africa,” Prime  Minister Narendra Modi had tweeted when Ramaphosa accepted his invitation.

Earlier in April last year, India had sent the invite to US President Donald Trump but the latter turned it down. Trump reportedly rejected India’s invitation over the latter’s S-400 missile defence system deal with Russia and oil imports from Iran despite the threat of US sanctions.