India, South Africa to boost defense ties, trade

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, arrive for a delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Ramaphosa is on a two-day state visit to India and will be the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade celebrating the country's anniversary of its national constitution taking effect. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, shakes hand with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, before a delegation level meeting in New Delhi, India, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. Ramaphosa is on a two-day state visit to India and will be the chief guest at India's Republic Day parade celebrating the country's anniversary of its national constitution taking effect. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

NEW DELHI — India and South Africa will boost ties in key areas such as defense, maritime security, information technology and trade under a three-year strategic exchange program, their leaders said Friday.

The plan was announced by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa after they met in New Delhi.

Two-way trade is expected to rise to $10.65 billion in 2018-19 from $9.38 billion in 2017-18.

India's External Affairs Ministry said the South African defense industry is also looking at India, which is upgrading its military equipment. India has offered training slots for South African defense personnel, it said.

India's Defense Ministry lifted a ban last year on South Africa's state-owned aerospace and military technology conglomerate Denel SOC Ltd. after investigators found no evidence to back bribery allegations. The company was blacklisted 13 years ago for allegedly paying bribes to a company to secure deals to supply the Indian army with rifles and ammunition.

T.S. Tirumurti, an Indian external affairs ministry official, said Thursday the issue has been settled and India is ready to do business with Denel and other South African manufacturers.

Ramaphosa will be the chief guest on Saturday at India's Republic Day parade, which celebrates the anniversary of the adoption of its constitution in 1950. India had first invited U.S. President Donald Trump to attend, but U.S. officials declined, citing a scheduling issue.

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