South Africa and India convened the Foreign Office Consultations on 18 January 2018 in New Delhi, India. The Consultations form part of the structured mechanism which governs bilateral relations between the two countries. This mechanism comprises a Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) and the Foreign Office Consultations (FOC).
The FOC serves to reflect on matters of mutual interest within the global arena, as well as a review mechanism to take stock of progress in the implementation of the decisions of the previous Joint Ministerial Commission.
The Consultations on 18 January 2018 were co-chaired, from the South African side, by Professor Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director-General within the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, responsible for the Asia and Middle East Regions; and from the side of India, Dr Neena Malhotra, Joint Secretary, East and Southern Africa, from the Ministry of External Affairs.
The meeting reviewed developments in the bilateral relationship between South Africa and India, since the holding of the 9th Joint Ministerial Commission, in Durban, in May 2015, and the previous round of Foreign Office Consultations, held in Pretoria in May 2016. The 10th Joint Ministerial Commission will take place in India during the course of 2018.
South Africa and India enjoy a Strategic Partnership based on shared values and common interests and the meeting reflected on progress made with regard to the conclusion of a number of legal instruments, including agreements and memoranda of understanding, aimed at promoting cooperation within specific areas. These areas relate to visa simplification procedures, cooperation in higher education, audio-visual co-production and renewable energy.
The meeting further reflected on ways to grow commercial links between South Africa and India, especially in the fields of trade and investment, while noting that bilateral trade had grown steadily over the last decade. For the year, January to November 2017, two-way trade had reached R97 billion and further areas of cooperation were being explored in the financial services industry, defence procurement, agro-processing and deep mining equipment.
The meeting noted that good cooperation exists between South Africa and India within multilateral bodies, and both countries pledged to cooperate further in the pursuit of the reform of the institutions of global governance. Close collaboration would continue in the fight against terrorism and within important groupings such as BRICS, IBSA and IORA, the latter where South Africa has taken over the chair for the period 2017-2019.
South Africa and India also committed at the meeting to strengthening bilateral relations in 2018, specifically in the areas of trade, foreign direct investment, tourism and people-to-people contact, also considering that in 2018, twenty five years of the establishment of diplomatic relations are being celebrated by both countries.