In South Africa, Modi looks to stop drift in ties
Portugal’s Nani celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo and other teammates after scoring the team’s second goal against Wales in the first semi-final of Euro 2016.
Narendra Modi arrives in South Africa on Friday evening for the first official visit by an Indian Prime Minister in 10 years. What a difference a decade makes.
When Manmohan Singh met with Thabo Mbeki in 2006 India was riding a sustained economic boom, and South Africa was at the peak of its post-apartheid GDP growth.
The relationship was also in rude health. The powerful Congress minister Anand Sharma, whose wife, Zenobia, is South African, shuttled back and forth, and substantial investments in telecoms, vehicles, and banking were underway.
It all seemed very natural. The DNA of South Africa’s governing party, the African National Congress, has been coiled together with that of the Indian National Congress since Gandhi’s South African awakening.
The financial crisis, a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of the Congress and equally fundamental shifts inside the ANC have since intervened and the relationship has drifted into irritation and disappointment on both sides. Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Mozambique’s President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi in Maputo on Thursday.
Trade has grown, but big deals have gone failed: Tata has sold its stake in South Africa’s Neotel, Bharti-Airtel was unable to close
its planned transaction with MTN, and First National Bank has been unable to expand its India footprint.
There is still co-operation in multilateral forums, but South Africa is seen by Indian diplomats as pandering to China within BRICs - particularly over the location of the New Development Bank.
Mbeki, a technocrat and reformer, was ousted, after a vicious battle within his party, and replaced in 2009 by Jacob Zuma, a post-ideological figure who presides over a growing patronage network. Like the Congress in the late 1960s, the ANC is fracturing, and popular anger over corruption and unemployment is fuelling near-daily protest.