In South Africa, Modi looks to stop drift in ties

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Nic Dawes nic.dawes@hin­dus­tan­times.com

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.

REUTERS PHOTO

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