Patil to visit South Africa, Seychelles

New Delhi, April 27: Amid China’s increased forays in Africa, President Pratibha Patil heads Monday on an eight-day trip to Seychelles and South Africa which is expected to give a renewed impetus to India’s multi-faceted engagement with a resurgent continent.

The president will be accompanied by a large delegation that includes, Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology Sachin Pilot, Rajya Sabha MP Prabha Thakur and Lok Sabha MP Sanjay Shamrao Dhotre.

Senior officials, including Christy Fernandez, the secretary to the president, M. Ganapathy, secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry and business leaders will also be accompanying Patil.

The visit should provide a greater momentum and impetus in the further consolidation and development of our comprehensive, multifaceted engagement with the Seychelles and South Africa, Ganapathy told reporters here.

Patil begins her African safari with a two-day visit to the picturesque Indian Ocean island where the focus will be on expanding anti-piracy cooperation and scaling up trade and investment.

In Seychelles, she will hold wide-ranging talks with President James Alex-Michel, Vice President Danny Faure and other senior ministers.

With piracy and naval operation an important thrust of bilateral ties, Patil will also visit the Seychelles People’s Defence Force where she will be received by its chief and interact with Indian naval officers.

In Pretoria, Patil will meet her counterpart Jacob Zuma and hold discussions with him on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues. With the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan escalating, the issue is expected to figure in the discusions.

Patil’s visit to South Africa will take place just a month after Zuma came to New Delhi to attend the BRICS summit of emerging powers, including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

She has myriad engagements in South Africa that includes unveiling a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the Constitution Hill in Johannesburg and will also visiting the the Number Four Prison where Mahatma Gandhi had been incarcerated by the apartheid regime.

She will then return to Pretoria and address the India-South Africa Business Forum Meet. She will also visit Cape Town May 4-5.

The focus of her discussions in South Africa will be to impart renewed momentum to growing trade and investment between the two countries. Bilateral trade has exceeded $10 billion, and a fresh target of $15 billion has been set for 2015.

IANS