Revived air link part of bid to hit 'reset button' with India
Indian high commissioner says she is also working on a simplified visa regime to boost economic partnership
India is in talks with South Africa to revive a direct air link between the two countries.
Indian high commissioner Ruchira Kamboj has set the ball in motion by meeting South African Airways CEO Vuyani Jarana.
The embattled airline shut down its Mumbai-Johannesburg route suddenly in 2015, claiming it was not profitable.
Kamboj, who was in Durban on Wednesday to launch the 125th commemoration of Mahatma Gandhi’s expulsion from a first-class train compartment in Pietermaritzburg, said the issue of a lack of direct flights was on the table at the recent India-South Africa business summit in Johannesburg.
“We are working to revive a direct airlink between our two countries.
“At the business summit this was the one clarion call, common to all ministers, investors and the diaspora. It was voiced very loudly and this demand has been noted.
“I have already had a meeting with the CEO of South African Airways. It’s a work in progress,” Kamboj said.
“We are also working on having a more simplified visa regime, which has been identified as an impediment between the two countries.
“We hope that all of this will reset the button on the economic partnership.”Kamboj said India’s goal was to double the trade and investment figures.
“Currently, India’s investment in South Africa is $10-billion and we’re your fourth-largest trading partner. But we want to double these figures in the next five years.”
Mining, IT, health and renewable energy are some of the sectors that have been identified for future growth.
On South Africa’s current political landscape, Kamboj said it was a “very fascinating time”.
“All of us as diplomats have been closely following the story.
“We were all there at Nasrec and we were there when President Ramaphosa gave that stirring speech, ‘Send Me’. We are now at a phase where our two countries are working closely economically, politically and culturally.
“I certainly think this a very exciting time – change of leadership in South Africa – a very strong and charismatic leadership,” she added.
She believes that with the current turmoil in the world, Gandhi’s teachings and principles are still relevant.
“Two of our towering personalities, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, stood for non-violence and reconciliation.
“The message of these two great personalities, the message of fighting for peace through peace and acceptance and tolerance, definitely needs to be taken to youth,” said Kamboj.