India South Africa Relations
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Historical Background

India’s links with the struggle for freedom and justice in South Africa date back to the period during which Mahatma Gandhi started his Satyagraha movement in South Africa over a century ago. India was at the forefront of the international community in its support to the antiapartheid movement; it was the first country to sever trade relations with the apartheid Government (in 1946) and subsequently imposed a complete - diplomatic, commercial, cultural and sports - embargo on South Africa. India worked consistently to put the issue of apartheid on the agenda of the UN, NAM and other multilateral organizations and for the imposition of comprehensive international sanctions against South Africa. The ANC maintained a representative office in New Delhi from the 1960s onwards. India actively worked for the AFRICA Fund to help sustain the struggle through support to the frontline states.

Following talks between the then South African Government and the ANC, India’s relations with South Africa were restored after a gap of over four decades with the opening of a Cultural Centre in Johannesburg in May 1993. Diplomatic and consular relations with South Africa were restored in November 1993 during the visit of the then South African Foreign Minister Pik Botha to India. A Consulate General was thereafter established in Johannesburg. The Indian High Commission in Pretoria was opened in May 1994, followed by the opening of the Consulate General in Durban the same month. Since Parliament in South Africa meets in Cape Town, a permanent office of the High Commission was opened there in 1996, which has been re-designated as Consulate General of India with effect from January 2011. In addition to its High Commission in Delhi, South Africa has a Consulate General in Mumbai.

Political Relations

Development of political relations since 1994

Against the background of India’s consistent support to the anti-apartheid struggle, there has been a steady consolidation of our close and friendly ties with South Africa, both bilaterally and through BRICS, IBSA and other Fora.  A number of bilateral agreements have been concluded between the two countries since the assumption of diplomatic relations in 1993 in diverse areas ranging from economic and commercial cooperation, defence, culture, heath, human settlements, public administration, science and technology and education. India’s Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) has been a useful medium of promoting cooperation in development of human resources.  

Recent High Level meetings

Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi met with South African President Mr Jacob Zuma on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Fortaleza in Brazil in July 2014, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia in November 2014, on the sidelines of the 7th BRICS Summit in Ufa, Russia on 9 July 2015 and on the sidelines of the third India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi on 28 October 2015.

Incoming visits


President Jacob Zuma led a South African delegation to India for third India-Africa Forum Summit and was accompanied by Foreign Minister Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

President Jacob Zuma paid a visit to India in March 2012 to attend 4th BRICS Summit.


President Zuma, accompanied by Mrs Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, had earlier paid a State Visit to India in June 2010. President Zuma’s delegation included seven Cabinet Ministers [Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Defence, Public Enterprises, Trade & Industry, Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries, Transport and Communications]. Three MOUs/Agreements were signed during the visit: (i) MOU on Cooperation in the Field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors; (ii) Air Services Agreement; and (iii) MoU on cooperation between the Foreign Service Institute of India and the Diplomatic Academy of South Africa. A 200-member strong business delegation as well as senior officials accompanied President Zuma on his visit. President Zuma met the then President, Vice President and Prime Minister; the then MOS for External Affairs, Chairperson of UPA and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha called on him. Discussions reflected the fraternal warmth and affection as well as the strategic partnership that characterize bilateral relations. President Zuma and his delegation also met Indian business leaders in Mumbai in June 2010.

Outgoing visits


Former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh visited South Africa in March 2013 to attend 5th BRICS Summit held in Durban. The official delegation included the then Finance Minister Shri P. Chidambaram, the then Commerce and Industry Minister Shri Anand Sharma; and other senior officials.


On the passing away of Dr Nelson Mandela on Dec 5, 2013, President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee led a multi-party delegation, comprising of UPA Chairperson & Congress Party President, former Commerce and Industry Minister, former Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Smt Sushma Swaraj, the then Members of Parliament from CPI (M) and BSP and other senior officers of Government of India to attend the State funeral on Dec 10, 2013.

Former President Smt Pratibha Devisingh Patil accompanied by the then Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology Shri Sachin Pilot and a trade delegation paid a State Visit to South Africa in May 2012. The delegation visited Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban.

Parliamentary visits

The regular Parliamentary exchanges between India and South Africa continued. From South Africa, a joint Parliamentary delegation led by Speaker Mr. Max Sisulu and Chairperson, National Council of Provinces, Mr. M.J. Mahlangu, visited India in July, 2012. A goodwill Parliamentary delegation led by the then Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Shri Pawan Bansal, visited South Africa in October, 2012.

Ministerial visits


There have been regular exchanges at Ministerial level including, visit of Shri Pratik Prakashbapu Patil, the then MOS(Coal) in October 2012 and Shri Anand Sharma, former Minister of Commerce, Industry and Textiles in January 2013. Shri Sharad Pawar, then Minister of Agriculture & Food Processing visited South Africa for 3rd meeting of BRICS Ministers for Agriculture and Agrarian Development on October 28-29, 2013. Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Health Minister participated in BRICS Health Ministers’ meeting held in Cape Town in November 2013. Shri Shiv Shankar Menon, former NSA participated in BRICS NSAs meeting held at Cape Town in December 2013. A 28 member Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers’ delegation led by Shri A. R. Rather, former Finance & Ladakh Affairs Minister, Jammu & Kashmir visited South Africa in July-August 2013. Shri Anand Sharma, leader of INC attended the Presidential Inauguration ceremony on behalf of INC on 23rd May 2014. CM of Madhya Pradesh Shri Shivraj Singh Chouhan accompanied by high level delegation visited South Africa on June 7-14, 2014 to promote MP’s Global Investors Summit 2014. Hon’ble Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Shri Kalraj Mishra visited South Africa on 17-21 Jan 2015. During his visit, he attended the seminar on “India Model on Small Business Development” organised by Black Business Council, SA and witnessed the signing of MOU between NSIC and Black Business Council on 19 Jan 2015. He also met the Premier of Western Cape, Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Finance, in Cape Town.


Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations & Cooperation of South Africa visited Gandhinagar, India on 7-9 Jan 2015 to attend Pravasi Bhartiya Divas 2015 as the Guest of Honour. On the sidelines of PBD 2015, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane called on Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi and met with  EAM Smt Sushma Swaraj.  Mr. Malusi Gigaba Home Minister of South Africa visited India from 5-9 July 2015. During his visit he met with Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh.

Joint Commission and Foreign Office Consultations

The India-South Africa Joint Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers was set up in 1994 to identify areas of mutually beneficial cooperation. The 7th session of the JMC was held in Pretoria in February 2008. During the visit, three Agreements on Customs Cooperation, S&T and visa free travel for diplomatic and official passport holders were signed. India hosted the 8th session of the JMC in March, 2011 in New Delhi. The then EAM Shri S.M. Krishna headed the Indian delegation, while Minister Mashabane led the South African side. 9th session of India-South Africa Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held in Durban on 19 May 2015. It was co-chaired by Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Hon’ble Minister of External Affairs & Overseas Indian Affairs and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations & Cooperation Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.  During the visit, EAM paid a courtesy call on President Jacob Zuma.

The 7th session of the India-South Africa Foreign Office Consultations was held in New Delhi in January 2015. It was co-chaired by Shri Vinay Kumar, the then Joint Secretary (E&SA) from Indian side and Amb (Dr) Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General: Asia and the Middle East, Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO) from South African side. The 8th session of the Foreign Office Consultations was held in Pretoria in May 2016. It was co-chaired by Ms (Dr) Neena Malhotra, Joint Secretary (E&SA) from Indian side and Amb (Dr) Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General: Asia and the Middle East, DIRCO from South African side.

IBSA & BRICS Initiative

On June 6, 2003, the Foreign Ministers of India, Brazil and South Africa met in Brasilia and agreed to set up a Dialogue Forum for regular consultations. Subsequently, in 2006, this was upgraded to Summit level; five Summits have been held so far, the last in Pretoria in October 2011. IBSA Trilateral Ministerial meeting was held in New Delhi in March 2011. 16 Sectoral Working Groups have been established in areas such as health, agriculture, education, human settlements, S&T and defence.

South Africa was also admitted as a member of the BRICS grouping and attended the BRICS meeting held in April 2011 at Sanya, attended the BRICS Summit held in March 2012 in New Delhi and South Africa hosted the 5th Summit at Durban in March 2013. Thereafter, BRICS Summit was held in Fortaleza, Brazil in July 2014 and 7th BRICS Summit was held in the Russian city of Ufa in July 2015. India is the current BRICS Chair.

Commercial & Economic Relations

Commercial relations have flourished since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1993.  During the visit of President Zuma to India, both sides agreed to work towards a target of US$ 10 billion in bilateral trade by 2012. The trade target was revised to US$ 15 billion by 2014 during the visit of the then Commerce and Industry Minister in January 2011 to South Africa as the bilateral trade target was almost achieved in FY 2011-12. India’s imports from SA in 2012-13 and 2013-14 declined mainly due to restrictions on gold imports by GOI and hence, the target of US$15 billion could not be achieved. Recent bilateral trade figures are as follows:

Figures in   million US$   







India’s Exports







India’s Imports







Total Trade

11125 .57     






Source: Ministry of Commerce, GOI

There is substantial potential for trade growth between the two countries.  Exports from India to South Africa include vehicles and components thereof, transport equipment, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods, footwear, dyes and intermediates, chemicals, textiles, rice, gems and jewellery, etc. Import from South Africa to India include gold, steam coal, copper ores & concentrates, phosphoric acid, manganese ore, aluminum ingots & other minerals.

Major Indian investors in South Africa include Tata (automobiles, IT, hospitality and ferrochrome plant), Mahindra (automobiles) and a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Ranbaxy and CIPLA, as well as IT companies and some investments in the mining sector. There is also growing South African investments in India led by SAB Miller (breweries), ACSA (upgradation of Mumbai airport), SANLAM and Old Mutual (insurance), ALTECH (set top boxes), Adcock Ingram (pharmaceuticals), Rand Merchant Bank (banking). First National Bank, a leading bank of South Africa opened its branch in Mumbai in April 2012. Annually approx. 1.2 lakh Indian tourists visit South Africa while approx. 60,000 South African tourists visit India.

A 25-Member delegation led by Secretary, Mines, visited Cape Town in February 2013 to attend Mining Indaba (Africa’s largest mining event). A 42-member delegation led by Chairman, Apparel Export Promotion Council visited Cape Town in March 2013 for India Clothing and Textile Trade Show. Shri Anand Sharma, former Commerce & Industry Minster visited South Africa in Sep-Oct 2013 for 3rd India-Africa Trade Ministers’ meeting. A 24-member delegation led by Shri Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Steel & Mines visited Cape Town in February 2015 to attend Mining Indaba. Shri Rajendra Shukla, Minister for Mineral Resources, Energy & Public Affairs, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh also accompanied the delegation.

Cultural Relations

With the help of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), an intensive programme of cultural exchanges is organised throughout South Africa including scholarships for South African nationals. In addition to such cultural programming, a ‘Shared Histories’ Festival organized as a public-private partnership is also held, which held its ninth edition in 2015. The SA Minister of Arts & Culture Mr. Pallo Jordan visited India in December 2007 during which he also inaugurated a major South African art exhibition. Mrs. Ambika Soni, the then Minister for Tourism and Culture visited South Africa in August 2008 and signed the Programme of Cooperation (POC) in Arts and Culture. A Festival of India in South Africa was jointly organized by Department of Arts and Culture South Africa and High Commission in Pretoria during June-August 2011 & a Festival of South Africa in India was organized in February-April 2013 under the POC. The 9th World Hindi Conference was held in September 2012 at Johannesburg. A Festival of India in South Africa was jointly organized by High Commission in Pretoria and Department of Arts and Culture of South Africa during July-August 2014 commemorating 20 years of our diplomatic relations and also 100 years of Gandhiji’s return to India from South Africa.

International Day of Yoga (IDY) was celebrated on 21 June 2015 by the Mission/Posts in collaboration/association with local organisations in 13 cities across South Africa.


In FY 2014-15, under ITEC, 100 slots were allocated to South Africa, out of which, 80 slots were utilized. For the year 2015-16, a total of 80 ITEC slots have been allocated and so far 53 slots have been utilized.

ICCR offered a total of 52 slots to South Africa in 2014-15 out of which 37 were utilised. For the year 2015-16, ICCR has offered a total of 52 slots for South Africa and so far 59 slots have been (over) utilised.

Indian Community

The major part of the Indian origin community came to South Africa from 1860 onwards as farm labour to serve as field hands and mill operatives in the sugar and other agricultural plantations of Natal (which was then a British colony). Most of these initial migrants were from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh with some from eastern UP and Bihar. A second wave of Indians came after 1880. These were the “passenger Indians” – so-called because they paid their fares as passengers on board a steamship bound for South Africa. This was the community of traders who mainly hailed from Gujarat.

The South African Indian origin community numbers around 1.5 million and constitutes about 3% of South Africa’s total population. About 80% of the Indian community lives in the province of KwaZulu Natal, about 15% in the Gauteng (previously Transvaal) area and the remaining 5% in Cape Town. South Africans of Indian origin are well-represented in Government, business, media, legal and other professions. The year 2010 marked the 150th anniversary of the first arrival of Indians in South Africa. 2014 marked 100 years of Gandhiji’s final departure to India from South Africa; he reached India on 9th Jan 1915; this date is now commemorated annually as Pravasi Bhartiya Divas.

Useful Resources

Website of High Commission of India:



June 2016