President Jacob Zuma. File photo: Jason Boud
President Jacob Zuma. File photo: Jason Boud

Guptagate: India wants Zuma to apologise

By CANDICE BAILEY Time of article published May 19, 2013

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When President Jacob Zuma visits India in two weeks, he should expect an angry Indian government expecting a diplomatic apology following the Gupta jet furore.

According to a diplomatic source, who cannot be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, the Indian government has not considered the matter closed and was annoyed by Pretoria publicly blaming Indian High Commissioner Virendra Gupta for the contentious landing of the chartered jet at Waterkloof Air Force Base. The source said India was still expecting an apology.

It is however understood that when Zuma attends the India Brazil SA (Ibsa) summit in New Delhi next week, he will discuss the matter with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their bilateral meetings.

Days after the private jet landed at the country’s military base with more than 200 guests for the wedding of the niece of the politically connected Gupta family, it was reported that the plane had not received any executive authority to land at the base and that Indian High Commissioner Gupta had sent a request for landing clearance.

The South African government has since assigned a team of directors-general to investigate the matter and their findings are due to be released today. Zuma tried to salvage diplomatic relations by cautioning that the saga should not strain the relations between the two countries, key emerging economies.

This week High Commissioner Gupta told The Sunday Independent: “India and South Africa’s relations continue to be extremely cordial and characterised by a historic friendship and deep emotional empathy.”

International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela also dispelled allegations of tensions between the two countries.

“The idea of the tension between South Africa and India would sound like a juicy story but the two countries enjoy a cordial, fraternal, strong and historic relationship and there are no tensions between us.”

The Sunday Independent however understands that speculation that Gupta would be recalled as high commissioner because of his involvement in the plane’s landing, fuelled by government officials bluntly pointing fingers at him, have not been well received by the Indian government.

The diplomatic source said that for India to be mentioned by South Africa was in “bad taste”. “They owe India an apology. They owe the high commissioner an apology,” the insider said.

The apology was not yet forthcoming, the insider said, adding that allegations that the South African government would lay a complaint with the Indian government had also not been followed through.

But Monyela said South Africa could not apologise to India. “We are not aware of any expectation of apology. We would not know what we are apologising for,” he said.

Gupta has maintained his innocence, saying in earlier media reports that the application was made by the High Commission’s defence adviser to the South African Department of International Relations’ chief of defence because there were high-profile Indian guests on board.

The incident however follows a separate clash between the two governments at the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (Brics) summit.

The Indian government was left red-faced when a scheduled bilateral meeting between Singh and Zuma was cancelled – twice. The meeting was rescheduled from the first day of the conference to the second day but had to be cancelled for a second time. It is believed that Singh and Zuma met informally on several occasions throughout the summit but never engaged formally. But High Commissioner Gupta called it a “minor incident”.

“Our prime minister has said that he is very pleased with the outcome of the Brics summit,” said Gupta. He said the cancellation was due to delays in the programme. - Sunday Independent

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