Inauguration incomplete without India: New South African president (Repeat for all needing)

May 10th, 2009 - 11:51 am ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, May 10 (IANS) South African President Jacob Zuma told visiting Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari Saturday that his inauguration would have been incomplete without India’s presence, an official said.

Zuma’s remarks came during a lunch with visiting dignitaries from 28 countries after his swearing-in ceremony in Pretoria Saturday.

“The meeting between President Zuma and the vice president was a very warm one,” Nalin Surie, secretary (west) in India’s external affairs ministry, told journalists at a briefing here.

“Separately (Zuma) told the vice president that this inauguration ceremony would not have been complete without India present, and I think that was genuinely said,” Surie added.

On his part, Ansasri “conveyed the felicitations and the good wishes of the Indian dignitaries and invited President Zuma to visit India,” the official said.

Surie said during the lunch Ansari also met the leaders of a host of countries including the Seychelles, Comoroes, Gambia and the Philippines, as also Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda.

Surie said that during his lunchtime address, Zuma had thanked all those who had stood by the South African people during their decades-long struggle against apartheid.

India had been at the forefront of this support, having initiated the anti-apartheid debate at the United Nations in 1947.

Reflecting on the inauguration ceremony, Surie said he hoped that South Africans also saw the rain that came down as a good omen, as was the case in India”.

“We spent a couple of hours getting wet, but 15 minutes before the inauguration the skies cleared up.”

“It was also interesting that they started an inauguration ceremony with a Hindu prayer, something that does not happen even in India.”

Indian High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia said South Africa was opening a new chapter in its history since becoming a democracy in 1994.”

“I think that there is a sense that in the new era, we will move forward in a very purposeful dynamic and positive fashion by taking the relationship between India and South Africa further,” Bhatia said.

He added that in the first six months of this year, South Africa’s exports to India had grown by 22 percent, although Indian exports had gone down by 14 percent due to the retraction of the South African economy.

“This is the most significant relationship that we have in Africa, and it is growing very rapidly, and through South Africa, I think we can also reach out to many other countries in the region. We are using South Africa as a base for this,” Surie added.

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