Indian beauty queens crown deepening ties with South Africa

December 28th, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Ambika SoniJohannesburg, Dec 28 (IANS) Three Indians doing well in beauty pageants in South Africa crowned a year in which business, cultural and political ties between the two countries reached new heights.The best-known would-be business tie, between mobile giants Reliance Communications in India and MTN in South Africa, fell through, but the Tata-led consortium Neotel forged ahead in its quest to take on the state-owned monopoly Telkom as South Africa’s second national operator.

By the year-end, confidence in Neotel’s massive rollout plan for wireless communications saw the consortium securing 7.5 billion rands ($778 million) in funding despite a worseing economic climate.

South Africa’s FirstRand Bank forged ahead with plans to start operations in India and by the year-end was finalising regulatory approval.

On the political front, the tripartite IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) initiative that aims to extend south-south cooperation was beginning to take shape five years after it was initiated, India’s Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee said at the fifth ministerial commission meeting of the IBSA hosted in South Africa in May.

India’s Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni led a march in Newtown to commemorate the centenary of a bonfire initiated by the then young lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to burn the passes required of all people of Asian origin by the government of the day.

The year had started with Shagun Sarabhai of India being crowned Miss India Worldwide, beating her counterparts from more than 20 countries who had gathered here.

Then in December, Miss India Parvathy Omanakkuttan emerged the first runner-up in the Miss World competition held here; and days later South African Indian Tatum Keshwar was crowned the new Miss South Africa.

That will be a hard act to beat.

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