Indo-Lanka co-operation to promote economic, cultural ties with South Africa | Daily News

Indo-Lanka co-operation to promote economic, cultural ties with South Africa

On the invitation of the High Commissioner of India to South Africa Jaideep Sarkar, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to South Africa Sirisena Amarasekara met at India House in Pretoria recently to discuss possible avenues to promote Indo-Sri Lanka Socio-Economic and Cultural relationship with South Africa.

Since Sri Lanka and India share common social and cultural values, economic problems and development potentials, it is more prudent to have a common approach and a strategy in promoting economic and trade ties with South Africa. Such a strategy would facilitate the harnessing of the potentials possessed by two nations in a supplementary and complementary manner to strengthen relationships with the South African economy.

As independent nations, India, South Africa as well as Sri Lanka have had similar social, political and economic experiences in the recent past. All three nations are facing the problem of poverty, unemployment and poor access to basic utilities by the majority of their populations. Also, all of us have different success stories in various sectors and those can be shared between three nations for mutual benefits.

It was also highlighted at this discussion about the necessity of India and Sri Lanka adopting a common approach in promoting the economic relationship with South Africa. India has a vast production base while Sri Lanka is enjoying the location advantage as a maritime hub in international trade. Through a common strategy, these potentials can be harnessed in a more productive manner to strengthen the economic relationship with South Africa, benefitting both nations, India and Sri Lanka.

During the discussion, attention was drawn to the fact that countries of the Indian Sub-continent, including Sri Lanka and counties of the African Continent are still struggling to come out of high dependency on advanced economies for trade and technology.

The African region is full of natural resources, which are essential for industrialisation and food production, while India and Sri Lanka are rich in human capital and also rapidly increasing demand for consumption. By combining these resource endowments, all three countries may reach to a win-win situation instead of trying to exploit each other.

Further, both parties paid attention to various residual issues inherited by Africa as well as South Asia from the colonial past. Colonial Rulers changed the centuries old socio- economic orders of colonized countries and native people were less privileged and became a production factor to support the economies of colonial masters. During those periods, Indian as well as African people were forced to migrate to various countries as a source of cheap labor. As a result, Indians migrated to South Africa as well as to Sri Lanka have formed a part of political, social and economic force in those countries today, as special interest groups.

Officers of the Indian High commission explained that Indian origin population accounts for 3% of South Africa’s population and about 80% of them live in KwaZulu Natal province and they are well represented in governance, business, media legal and other professions. While strengthening bi-lateral relationships, India is keen to see that they are enjoying equal status and facilities the same way as the natives. High Commissioner Amarasekara explained that after the independence, successive governments of Sri Lanka have done many things to main-stream the Indian workers, who have been immigrated during the colonial period and they are equally treated the same way as natives.

He further explained that people who have migrated to undeveloped countries with colonial masters have enjoyed better privileges and facilities those days compared to backward natives. After the independence, those natives have started acquiring the lost opportunities, resulting in reduction of the share of opportunities enjoyed by immigrants before. It should not be understood as willful discriminations. Immigrant population, instead of fighting to share the limited opportunities, should join hands with natives and expand the opportunities to accommodate the needs of both.

It was agreed Trade Secretaries of Both High Commissions must work together and develop a common strategy to enhance Indo- Lanka and South Africa economic and trade relationships. High Commissioner Amarasekara accompanied by Minister Counselor Priyangani Hewaratna and Third Secretary (Commercial) Sanjeewa Bandara.

High Commissioner Sarkar was assisted by First Secretary Bhupendra Singh and Second Secretary Shruthi Purushotam of the Indian High Commission.