FATHER OF THE NATION: Nelson Mandela. Picture: Gallo Images
Bounded by history, common aspirations and political values, relations between South Africa and India have soared in recent years as the two nations collaborate to push back social and political injustice at local and international level.
Indian High Commissioner Virendra Gupta described the relationship between the two nations as “a bond of a special kind”. The relationship was robust at govern- ment level but it was anchored by people-based relations.
In saying this Gupta was echoing views expressed by South African President Jacob Zuma, who described the relations between the two nations as being based on “very deep historical, cultural, economic, family and political ties between our two countries and two peoples”.
Gupta said diplomatic relations came in di?erent forms and shapes and were supported at di?erent levels. Many diplomatic relations across the world existed at government level only.
“The relations between South Africa and India have been supplemented and supported at the level of people,” he said.
This bond could be traced back to the arrival of Indian sugar cane labourers in South Africa in 1862. That community had since evolved to become an integral part of the South African social fabric with more than 1 million people of Indian origin making up about 2.5% of the South African population.
Arriving as slaves, Indians swelled the ranks of freedom ?ghters, joining Africans in the struggle against colonialism.
From this came the extraordinary Mahatma Gandhi who lived in South Africa for 21 years before returning home to lead the struggle for freedom and, in the process, became the father of the Indian nation.
That Gandhi had lived in South Africa was a special feature of relations between the two country’s, said Gupta. The parallels and the connections between the struggles for freedom in South Africa and India had solidi?ed relations between the two nations.
“Qualitatively our struggles were not di?erent. They were struggles for social justice,” he said.