Indias President Pratibha Devisingh Patil arrives with President Jacob Zuma for her state visit to South Africa for bilateral discussions in Pretoria. Photo: Reuters

India was “deeply committed” to working with SA to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean, visiting President Pratibha Patil said on Wednesday.

She and President Jacob Zuma also agreed to boost Indian tourism to SA and trade and investment between the two countries to try to reach a target of R111 billion in two-way trade by 2014.

Patil, on a state visit, said at a joint press conference with Zuma in Pretoria that “piracy in the Indian Ocean region adversely impacts on us all”.

She added: “We are deeply committed to working with the government of SA and its people to ensure that our trade routes are not affected, and we are able to bring a sense of safety and security in the maritime waters.”

SA officials said co-operation with India in fighting piracy had not been discussed in depth on Patil’s visit. It would be tackled in more detail in the Indian Ocean Rim forum, which is meeting at official level next week and ministerial level later this year.

Zuma said the country had received support and encouragement from India and other Brics partners – Brazil, Russia and China – for its major infrastructure development project in which more than R800bn would be invested by 2014.

Of that R300bn would go to energy and R262bn to transport and logistics. He said the Presidential Infrastructure Co-ordinating Commission had already identified and developed 43 major projects and infrastructure initiatives from state-owned enterprises as well as national, provincial and local government departments.

“To boost our infrastructure programme, we wish to enhance skills in the areas of engineering, information and communication technology, computer science, finance, economics and accounting, to name just a few. We will be seeking co-operation with India on the acquisition of some of these skills.”

Zuma added that between 2005 and 2010, the number of Indian tourists had increased by 122 percent. In just the first nine months of last year, Indian tourist numbers had increased by 29 percent on the total for 2010, raising India to seventh place as a source for tourist arrivals.

“The Southern African Tourism Association is training more than 1 000 Indian travel agents and tour operators in India to ensure they have the skills and experience to market SA,” he said.

“We are doing this because we want tourism from India to SA to increase significantly, especially after this state visit.”

Zuma said two-way trade between the countries reached R53.7bn last year, with SA exporting goods worth R24.4bn and importing R29.3bn worth of goods from India.

The countries would have to work hard to meet their target of R111bn by 2014, he said.

Patil will also visit Cape Town and Durban.

Foreign Editor