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WHEN INDIA WITNESSED HISTORY AYODHYA RAM MANDIR

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“After centuries of patience, uncountable sacrifices, renunciation and penance, our Shri Ram is here”

The opening of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya mark’s a turning point in India’s history, with divergent visions of nationhood and a call for unity among masses across the country. 22nd January, 2024 was not only marked for being an historic day of Pran Pratishtha (consecration) Ceremony of Ram Mandir but its been a day of celebration of victory and invoked the universality of the spirit of Ram that encompasses all of humanity.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi participated in the Pran Pratishtha ceremony of Shri Ramlalla in the newly built Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Mandir in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. Addressing the gathering, he exclaimed that our Ram has finally arrived after centuries.

“After centuries of patience, uncountable sacrifices, renunciation and penance, our Lord Ram is here”, PM Modi remarked and congratulated the citizens on the occasion.

Sharing his spiritual experience, the Prime Minister said that the divine consciousness inside the ‘Garbh Grih’ (inner sanctum) cannot be put into words and his body is pulsating with energy and the mind is devoted to the moment of Pran Pratishtha.

“Our Ram Lalla will not reside in the tent anymore. This divine temple will be his home now… This moment is supernatural and sacred, the atmosphere, environment and energy signify the blessings of Lord Ram upon us”, he said.

PM Modi underlined that the nation that breaks the shackles of the mindset of slavery and derives inspiration from the experiences of the past is the one which writes history. PM Modi said that today’s date will be discussed in a thousand years from now and it is by the blessings of Lord Ram that we are a witness to this momentous occasion unfolding itself.

During his 11-day anushthan, PM Modi attempted to bow before all the places where Lord Ram had set foot. Mentioning Pancwati Dham in Nashik, Thriprayar Temple in Kerala, Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, Shri Ranganathswamy Temple in Srirangam, and Dhanushkodi, the Prime Minister expressed gratitude for the journey from the sea to river Sarayu.

“From the sea to the Saryu river, the same festive spirit of Ram’s name is prevalent everywhere,… Lord Ram is connected to every particle of the soul of India. Ram resides in the hearts of Indians”.

The Prime Minister said “Today’s occasion is not only a moment of celebration, but at the same time it is also a moment of realization of the maturity of Indian society. For us, this is not only an occasion of victory but also of humility.”

“The construction of this temple of Ramlala is also a symbol of peace, patience, mutual harmony and coordination of Indian society. We are seeing that this construction is not giving birth to any fire, but to energy. Ram Mandir has brought inspiration to every section of the society to move forward on the path of a bright future”, he said.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the whole world is connected with the Pran Pratistha and the omnipresence of Ram can be witnessed. He said that similar celebrations can be seen in many countries and the festival of Ayodhya has become a celebration of the global traditions of Ramayana. “Ram Lalla’s prestige is the idea of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’”, he added.

HISTORY AND CONTROVERSY OF RAM TEMPLE

The construction of the Ram Temple began in 2020 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on August 5.

 Let us trace the timeline in history since the disputes begin.

‘Temple demolished’ to make way for mosque – 1528

– According to the most popular version which finds mention in government gazettes, Mughal ruler Babur’s general Mir Baqi constructed a mosque after razing a temple at ‘Ram’s birthplace’ in Ayodhya’s Ramkot.

Dispute during British India

– Religious violence over the site of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya occurred for the first time in 1853. Under the rule of Nawab Wajid Shah of Awadh, the Nirmohis, a Hindu sect, asserted that a Hindu temple had been demolished during Babur’s era to make way for the mosque.

Ram Lalla idols inside Babri Mosque – 1949

– Idol of Lord Ram surfaces inside Babri Masjid. Mr. Gopal Singh Visharad filed a petition before a Faizabad court to worship the deity. Hashim Ansari, a resident of Ayodhya, approached the court saying the idols should be removed and it be allowed to remain a masjid. The government locked the place but priests were allowed to perform daily puja.

– Six years later, the Britishers installed a fence to partition the site into two sections. Muslims were granted permission to pray within the mosque, while the outer court was designated for Hindu use.

– In January 1885, Mahant Raghubir Das submitted a request to the Faizabad district court, seeking approval to construct a canopy on the Ramchabutra, a raised platform situated outside the mosque. However, the plea was denied.

Plea seeks restoration of property to Muslims — 1961

– A petitioner filed a suit pleading for restoration of the property to Muslims. The Sunni Central Wakf Board filed suit in Faizabad civil court declaring Babri Mosque as property of board.

Campaign launched to build Ram temple — 1980s

– A committee, led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad party (VHP), was established with the objective of “liberating” the birthplace of Lord Ram and constructing a temple in his honour.

– Ayodhya court orders mosque to be opened for Hindus to offer prayers — 1986

Upon a plea by Hari Shankar Dubey, the district judge in Ayodhya issued an order to open the gates of the contested mosque, enabling Hindus to worship there. In response, Muslims formed the Babri Mosque Action Committee in protest.

– In compliance with the court’s directive, the government under Rajiv Gandhi ordered the unlocking of the gates of Babri Masjid.

– Prior to the court’s decision, only a Hindu priest had the authority to conduct an annual puja. Following the verdict, all Hindus were granted access to the site.

VHP lays the foundation of Ram Temple — 1989

– VHP initiated the construction of a Ram temple on the adjacent land to Babri Masjid. Justice Deoki Nandan Agarwal, former VHP Vice-President, filed a case requesting the relocation of the mosque. Subsequently, four pending suits in the Faizabad court were transferred to a special bench of the High Court.

The Rath Yatra — 1990

– Under the leadership of its then president, LK Advani, the BJP organized a national Rath Yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya. The primary objective of this rally was to express support for the Ram Temple agitation, which was being led by the VHP at that time.

– On October 23, 1990, then Prime Minister VP Singh granted authorization to Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Chief Minister of Bihar, to arrest LK Advani. The then BJP president was taken into preventive custody as his procession crossed the border between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The mosque is demolished -1992

  • On December 6, 1992 the disputed Babri Mosque was demolished by the karsevaks in the presence of leaders from Shiv Sena, VHP, and BJP. This triggered widespread communal riots throughout the country, resulting in the loss of at least 2,000 lives during the violence.

Godhra train fire and Gujarat riots – 2002

  • Coach no. S-6 of Sabarmati Express carrying kar sevaks from Ayodhya to Gujarat was burnt near Godhra station. Fifty-eight people were burnt alive, leading to Gujarat riots which claimed more than 1,000 lives.

ASI conducts survey – 2003

  • In 2003, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) surveyed the disputed site and reported evidence of a significant Hindu complex beneath the mosque. However, Muslim organizations disputed these findings, leading to ongoing disagreements regarding the historical interpretation of the site.

Allahabad HC divides the disputed site in three parts — 2010

  • In 2010, the Allahabad high court delivered its judgment on the four title suits about the dispute. The High Court ruled that the disputed land should be divided into three parts: one-third allocated to Ram Lalla, represented by the Hindu Mahasabha; one-third to the Islamic Waqf Board; and the remaining third to the Nirmohi Akhara.

All three sides approach Supreme Court — 2011

– All three parties—the Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lalla Virajman, and Sunni Waqf Board—appealed against the Allahabad High Court verdict.

– The Supreme Court stayed the HC order of splitting the disputed site in 3 parts.

Supreme Court asks government to handover land for Ram Temple construction — 2019

– On November 9, 2019, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court issued a verdict ordering the disputed land of 2.77 acres to be transferred to a trust, to be established by the Government of India, for the construction of the Ram Janmabhoomi temple. Additionally, the court directed the government to allocate an alternative five acres of land at a different location to the Sunni Waqf Board for the construction of a mosque.

– The trust formed for the construction of the Ram temple was named Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Shetra. This trust comprises 15 members.

Foundation stone laying ceremony — 2020

– On August 5, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Ram Temple. He also unveiled a plaque and released a commemorative postal stamp.

BRIEF OVERVIEW OF THE CONSTRUCTION OF RAM MANDIR

The Ram temple complex, built in the traditional Nagara style are characterised by their towering spires or shikharas, intricate carvings, and symbolic representations. They have meticulous craftsmanship, as visible in the magnificent Khajuraho temples of Madhya Pradesh.

The original design for Ram Mandir was planned in 1988 by the Sompura family of Ahmedabad. However, it went through certain changes in 2020 in accordance to the Vastu shastra and the Shilpa shastras. The temple, built in an overall area spanning 71 acres, is divided into six parts, including the sanctum sanctorum and five pavilions—Gun Mandap, Rang Mandap, Nritya Mandap, Kirtan Mandap, Prarthana Mandap.

The superstructure of the temple is being constructed by using carved Rajasthan sandstone from Bansi Paharpur in Bharatpur district. The carving and erection work of the sandstones have started and approximately 1,200 skilled technicians are engaged at mines and workshops in Rajasthan as well as at the Shri Ram Temple workplace, as stated by the Trust.

The quality of the stones and the workmanship of the carving is being supervised by experts from agencies including the National Institute of Rock Mechanics (NIRM) from Bengaluru, architect CB Sompura, and implementing agencies Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T) and Tata Consulting Engineers (TCE).

TOTAL AREA  2.7 ACRES

Total built-up area     57,400 Sq feet

Total length of the temple     360 feet

Total width of the temple      235 feet

Total height of the temple     161 feet

Total floors     3

Number of columns in the ground floor      160

Number of columns in the first floor             132

Number of columns in the second floor       72

Number of gates in the temple          12

KEY FEATURES OF RAM TEMPLE CONSTRUCTION

  1. The three-storied temple is built in the traditional Nagar style with each wall measuring 20 feet. No iron is used in the construction of the temple anywhere.
  2. It has a length (east-west) of 380 feet, a width of 250 feet, and a height of 161 feet. The complex has a total of 392 pillars and 44 doors.
  3. Entry into the temple is from the east, ascending 32 stairs through the Singh Dwar. The main entrance to the temple will be the Lion Gate or the ‘Singh Dwar’, which is constructed using the Rajasthani sand pink stone in the Nagar style.
  4. Inside the Ram Mandir complex, there are proposed temples dedicated to Maharshi Valmiki, Maharshi Vashishtha, Maharshi Vishwamitra, Maharshi Agastya, Nishad Raj, Mata Shabri, and the revered consort of Devi Ahilya.
  5. At the four corners of the complex, there are four temples – dedicated to Surya Dev, Devi Bhagwati, Ganesh Bhagwan and Bhagwan Shiv. In the northern arm is a Mandir of Maa Annapurna and in the southern arm is a Mandir of Hanuman ji.

The Prime Minister during the inaugural ceremony said that the future is dedicated to successes and accomplishments and the grand Ram Temple will be a witness to the progress and rise of India. “This grand Ram temple will become a witness to the rise of Viksit Bharat”, the Prime Minister said.

“This is India’s time and India is going to move forward. After waiting for centuries we have reached here. We all have waited for this era, this period. Now we will not stop. We will continue to reach the heights of development”, he concluded.

Shri Ram Mandir Construction Committee Chairperson Nripendra Mishra has said that areas surrounding Ayodhya has witnessed a surge in economic activities after the inauguration of the Ram temple and the city may undergo expansion similar to the National Capital Region.

“As money flows in, people will have many opportunities, and along with these opportunities, there will be increased investments in the area. We have received 16 applications for building hotels, and a plan for a smart city is also in progress,” he said.

FMCG companies and food services chains are making a direct route for Ayodhya as they are expecting 8-10-fold surge in tourism and floating (visiting) population of the city amid its global branding and facelift.

“Anticipating substantial surge in consumer demand following the consecration of the Ram temple, we are strategically setting up a greenfield plant in Ayodhya,” Angelo George, CEO of India’s largest mineral water company Bisleri International. He said the plant will feed into demand from surrounding markets in Uttar Pradesh.

From leading 5-star brands like the Taj, Radisson and ITC Hotels to budget players such as OYO, companies are lining up to open new hotels.

Such a large number of visitors will turn Ayodhya into a powerhouse boosting the business and economic in the entire region.

Redevelopment of Ayodhya as per Master Plan 2031 will be completed over 10 years with an investment of over Rs 85,000 crore to upgrade the holy city to meet the requirement of a daily footfall of around 3 lakh after the inauguration of the Ram Temple.

Architect and urban planner Dikshu Kukreja, whose firm has created the vision document for the entire Ayodhya, said the design vision includes all modern amenities that a world-class city in the 21st century must have and at the same time celebrate the history and culture of this ancient place.

Development and infrastructure projects have been categorised into eight broad themes –Aesthetic Ayodhya, Clean Ayodhya, Efficient Ayodhya, Accessible Ayodhya, Experiential Ayodhya, Modern Ayodhya, Cultural Ayodhya and Healthy Ayodhya.

The Ayodhya Ram Temple is considered to be an important pilgrimage sites for Hindus. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Ram and the construction of the temple is seen as a symbolic victory for the Hindu community, who had been fighting for the temple’s construction for decades. The temple inauguration holds significance for Hindus worldwide as it is a milestone reached after the successful culmination of a decades-long movement for the construction of the temple.

30 GLORIOUS YEARS OF INDIA- SOUTH AFRICA BILATERAL TIE-UP

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In an historic move witnessed by the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced to make the 55-member African bloc the new member of the G20 at G20 Summit, New Delhi on 9th September, 2023.

“In keeping with the sentiment of sabka saath (with everyone), India proposed that the African Union should be given permanent membership of the G20. I believe we all are in agreement on this proposal.”

Calling Africa India’s top priority,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said,

 “When we use the term ‘Global South,’ it is not just a diplomatic term. … In our shared history, we have together opposed colonialism and apartheid. It was on the soil of Africa that Mahatma Gandhi used powerful methods of non-violence and peaceful resistance. It is on this strong foundation of history that we are shaping our modern relations.”

India, under the supremacy of PM Modi has always believed in a collaborative future and this step further solidifies our collective commitment to global progress.

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Africa’s abundance of resources and demographics present tremendous opportunities. India’s G20 move goes beyond diplomatic symbolism. Given India’s leadership in creating Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and fostering financial inclusion for inclusive development of its citizens, India can play a catalytic role in empowering inclusive development in Africa.

With a perspective realization that Africa, as a continent is accounting to nearly 17% of the world’s population today and will reach 25% in 2050, India’s rise as a global player is inevitably linked to the kind of partnership it enjoys with Africa.

Both the countries look forward for collaborative engagements and aim to foster greater understanding and partnership opportunities, driving economic growth and innovation to join the race of developed Nations.

As we have entered the new year, South Africa has marked the completion of 30 momentous years of the bilateral relationship with India. The two countries have always shared strong friendship and camaraderie and this bond date back to over a century. Both countries have been each other’s closest allies and pillars of support in driving mutual growth.

Before we understand today’s scenario, let us go back in the history to trace India –South Africa relationship.

Political Relations 

This was started when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi started his political career during colonization in South Africa. India and South Africa share deep historic ties as both countries’ Independence struggles are deeply intertwined with each other. South Africa was the initiating ground for Gandhi’s journey to become a Mahatma, a turning point that went on to influence world history. Both countries have gifted the world with two of the greatest revolutionaries – Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

Diplomatic Relations

Diplomatic relations between India and Africa were established during the period of colonialism. During the wake of cold war many African Countries joined Non-Alignment Movement pioneered by India, Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana and Yugoslavia.

Economic Relations 

South Africa and India relations are enjoying an unprecedented renaissance, founded on shared economic interests and longstanding historical ties since the latter lifted economic sanctions against South Africa after the end of apartheid. India-Africa trade touched $98 billion in FY22–23 which is a positive economic development.

Cultural relations

While first generation Indians are outsiders to these African landscapes, the second, third generation Indian origin Africans are either familiar foreigners or not considered foreigners at all. The Kenyan Indians who have been in the country for generations, consider themselves as insiders, weaved into the tapestry of their adopted countries. Since independence, India believed it was destined to be a Great Power, meaning a self-reliant and economically and militarily powerful India with global respect and influence. These ambitions remain anchored in Africa.

India is increasingly playing an active role in international diplomacy on behalf of Africa and the Global South.

India-Africa Forum Summit is the official platform for the African Indian relations which is held once in every 3 years since 2008. The next triennial India-Africa Forum Summit is planned for 2024. In January 2023, 47 African countries attended the Voice of the Global South Summit. In June 2023, African and Indian government, private sector, and industry leaders converged in New Delhi for the 18th India-Africa Conclave hosted by the India Export Import (EXIM) Bank in partnership with India’s foreign and trade ministries.

India is a crucial partner for South Africa’s economy as it offers enormous trade and investment opportunities.

Trade ties between India and Africa date back centuries, to when Indian traders would travel to the east coast of the continent seeking precious metals and gemstones. These days, India is a key driver behind the increasing global recognition of the strategic importance of Africa.

India-Africa trade has grown 18 percent annually since 2003, reaching $103 billion in 2023. This makes India Africa’s third largest trading partner after the European Union and China.

African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry Fatima Haram Acyl (left) and India Minister of State for External Affairs Vijay Kumar Singh (center) at the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in October in New Dehli, India. (Photo: India Ministry of State for External Affairs)

India is also the second largest lender in Africa, with strong public-private partnerships and safeguards protecting borrowers from debt distress. In fact, most Indian aid is channeled through the African Development Bank (ADB), since 1983. India’s total investments in Africa amount to $70 billion, a figure the powerful Confederation of Indian Industry aims to increase to $150 billion by 2030.

Africa, with 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land, is well-positioned to feed a burgeoning global population, projected to reach 11 billion by the end of this century. Africa boasts an abundance of natural resources, including 8% of the world’s oil reserves, 7% of its natural gas, 18% of its gold, 53% of its diamonds, and 75% of its platinum.

Africa has a large working-age population, a growing middle class and a wealth of raw materials including gold, diamonds, oil and minerals. As the race to secure minerals for the transition to green energy gains momentum, Africa’s strategic importance to the global economy is rapidly being redefined.

For its part, India exports food and beverages, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, machinery and vehicles to Africa. India has become the largest supplier of passenger vehicles to South Africa and this model is likely to be expanded to other African nations.

There are still many potential areas for further collaboration and innovation for Africa and India, particularly in agriculture, where a huge transformation is underway.

Agriculture accounts for around 57% of employment on the African continent. New startups and established companies alike are disrupting the market with innovative solutions that address challenges across the agricultural value chain. India can widely contribute to the modernization of agricultural infrastructure in Africa, increase agricultural supply chain efficiency and improve productivity. India and Africa can strengthen their agribusiness ties by channeling funds into agrotechnology, which could boost global food security. With its investments, India has an opportunity to drive sustainable agricultural practices in Africa.

Solar panels at a green hydrogen production facility in South Africa: Indian investors could support Africa’s renewable transition by funding solar, wind and hydroelectric projects.   © Reuters

Concerns around climate change spread well beyond agriculture. Africa’s clean energy transition is now a center of attention, with renewable energy an emerging focus of India-Africa trade. India is already heavily investing in renewables and is the third-largest renewable energy producer globally.

Indian investors could support Africa’s renewable transition by funding solar, wind and hydroelectric projects across the continent. Leveraging its long-standing trade ties, India could help to drive real systemic change and contribute to global net-zero goals.

MAJOR EXPORTED ITEMS FROM INDIA TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH AMOUNT & QUANTITY

  • India exported 5,023 commodities to South Africa in 2022-23.
  • India’s exports to South Africa stood at US$ 8.47 billion in 2022-23.
  • Major exported items from India to South Africa include petroleum products (US$ 3.76 billion), motor vehicle/cars (US$ 1.54 billion), drug formulations, biologicals (US$ 0.57 billion), telecom instruments (US$ 0.21 billion), industrial machinery for dairy, etc. (US$ 0.14 billion), other construction machinery (US$ 0.10 billion), inorganic chemicals (US$ 0.09 billion), etc. in 2022-23.
  • India’s export to South Africa stood at US$ 1.43 billion from April-March 2023-24.
  • Major exported items from India to South Africa include petroleum products (US$ 743 million), motor vehicles/ cars (US$ 199 million), drug formulations, biologicals (US$ 92 million), telecom instruments (US$ 54 million), industrial machinery for dairy etc. (US$ 20 million), electric machinery and equipment (US$ 17 million), auto components and parts (US$ 16 million), etc. from April-May 2023-24.

MAJOR IMPORTED ITEMS BY INDIA FROM SOUTH AFRICA WITH AMOUNT & QUANTITY

  • India imported 1,149 commodities from South Africa in 2022-23.
  • India’s imports from South Africa stood at US$ 10.39 billion in 2022-23.
  • Major items imported by India from South Africa include coke, coal and briquettes (US$3.48 billion), gold (US$ 3.36 billion), pearl, precious and semi-precious stone (US$ 0.84 billion), copper and products made of copper (US$ 0.78 billion), bulk minerals and ores (US$ 0.43 billion), pulp and waste paper (US$ 0.39 billion), iron and steel (US$ 0.24 billion), etc. in 2022-23.
  • India’s imports from South Africa stood at US$ 1.71 billion from April-May 2023-24.
  • Major items imported by India from South Africa include coal, coke, and briquettes (US$ 726 million), gold (US$ 402 million), pearl, precious and semi-precious stones (US$ 140 million), copper and products made of copper (US$ 116 million), pulp and waste paper (US$ 96 million), bulk minerals and ores (US$ 76 million), iron and steel (US$ 36 million), etc. from April-May 2023-24.

Growing trade relations between the two emerging economies have achieved thriving business partnerships, and as such South Africa has identified India as a strategic partner due to the fact that its economy presents enormous trade and investment opportunities for South African businesses.

Africa-India Cooperation Sets Benchmark for a mutually beneficial and sustainable partnership built on African agency and capacity building.

Indian Defense officials pose for a group photo with delegates from African countries during the India-Africa Army Chief’s Conclave in Pune in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. (Photo: Money Sharma / AFP)

India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, termed Africa as India’s “sister continent,” in recognition of the long ties of affinity.

The defense and security have emerged as a key pillar of India-Africa relations. This was underscored in March 2023, when the two sides convened the first ever India-Africa Army-Chiefs Conclave, alongside the second edition of the Africa-India Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX), held over 10 days in Pune, India. The two sides also conduct an annual India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD) that coincides with India’s Defence Expo.

India’s October 2022 “Gandhinagar Declaration” calls for more professional military education (PME) training slots for African countries under ITEC. Additionally, India and Africa engage in specialized training and joint research in new areas like artificial intelligence, cyber security, munition systems, maritime surveillance, unmanned vehicles, space, and undersea scanning technologies,” explains Mishra.

India traditionally focused on East and Southern Africa due to maritime proximity across the Indian Ocean and the large Indian diaspora. Over time, India expanded its engagements to over 44 countries thanks to the Ministry of External Affairs’ Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC), which, since 1964, has devoted more than a third of its accounts to African countries in four areas: capacity building, project assistance, scholarships, and institution-building. It has trained over 200,000 civilian and defense professionals from 160 countries—mostly in Africa and Asia. India’s EXIM Bank has devoted 50 percent of its international financing, technical assistance, and trade promotion schemes to Africa. Africa’s largest digital project, the Pan African e-Network, is connecting Africa’s 54 countries to India and one another to share expertise in telecoms, medicine, health, resource mapping, and e-governance.

African navies have participated in all 47 editions of India’s Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX) in the Western Indian Ocean. Among its key outcomes is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tanzania and Kenya on shipbuilding and port development.

Naval Ship Sumedha at Port Lamu in Kenya in December 2023. (Photo: India Ministry of Defence)

In line with its policy of “developing together as equals,” India focusses most of its security assistance on building partner self-sufficiency. This has led to the deployment of Indian technicians to strengthen African capacity to repair and maintain equipment, dock facilities, boats, tanks, guns, and aircraft. India also supplies hardware like offshore patrol craft, combat helicopters, interceptor boats, and armored vehicles.

Education, Health and Technology sectors also boasts for a long and prosperous relationship. Africa is one of the beneficiaries of India’s flagship capacity building programme – Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC). As per National Education Policy 2020 guidelines, First IIT Campus to be set outside India is at Zanzibar, Tanzania.

India has a been a great supporter of South Africa during COVID 19 and supplied ‘Made in India’ COVID vaccines to 42 African countries under “One Earth One Health Mission”.

Pan-African e-network is a joint effort of India and African Union with an aim to provide satellite connectivity, tele-education, and tele-medicine services to the African countries.

Since the 1960s, India’s prime ministers have visited Africa 76 times, a level of engagement unmatched by Africa’s other external partners. Between 2015 and 2022, New Delhi received over 100 African leaders, while each African country received an Indian cabinet minister. Indo-African ties cover culture, education, trade, technical cooperation, energy, agriculture, maritime security, peacekeeping, and professional military education.

India also builds capacity for good governance through institutions like the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management, which has trained hundreds of African and Asian stakeholders. To better understand this important yet underlooked relationship, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies spoke to several Indian and African experts for their insights.

India has consistently been perceived as a trusted ally in Africa.

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi looking over Gandhi Square in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: South African tourism)

India and Africa have built a foundation for a strong and long-lasting trading relationship. It is time to channel investments in a strategic way to foster collaboration, innovation and shared growth between India and Africa. India and South Africa share similar growth aspirations, and by working together, we can realize these aspirations sooner.

South Africa Tourism soaring high with Indian Travel Trade Partnerships

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Besides sharing deep historical, and political ties, tourism plays a very crucial role in uniting South Africa with India. India solidifies its position as one amongst South African Tourism’s top-3 priority markets as South Africa witnessed as much as 43% increase in travellers from across India in 2023.

South African Tourism, a tourism marketing arm of the South African government, concluded its 20th Annual India Roadshow in 5 cities recently: Jaipur (12th February), Delhi (13th February), Ahmedabad (14th February), Bengaluru (15th February) and Mumbai (16th February). The roadshows hosted over 12000 meetings and generated more than 1,60,000 on the spot leads for South African Tourism, making the initiative a grand success.

Coceptualized by Neliswa Nkani, Hub Head – Middle East, India and South East Asia, South African Tourism, the tourism board partnered with the Hosting Venues to offer authentic South African cuisine and a glimpse of its culture to the guests.

With an aim to surpass pre-COVID travel numbers and with a focus on exploring potential of Tier 2 & Tier 3 cities alongwith Tier 1 cities, the board anticipates crossing the 100,000 mark for Indian visitors.

Speaking on the number achieved and mapping the future expectation, Neliswa said,

The 20th Annual India Roadshow marks more than two decades of South African Tourism’s commitment to the Indian market. 2023 emerged as another successful year for us and we witnessed 43% increase in travellers from India compared to its previous year. This achievement would not have been possible without relentless efforts from our Indian trade partners and the affection showered upon the Rainbow Nation by India travellers; we are truly grateful.”

Keeping her spirits high and anchoring a confident future, she continues

“Post resumption of travel activities we have seen India’s outbound tourism market bounce back much stronger compared to rest of the world. Given the immense potential that lies in the Indian market, it continues to remain amongst our top three focus market for 2024 and holds a position of strategic importance. We hope to keep this momentum going and welcome “more & more” Indian travellers to the Rainbow Nation.”

Indians and South Africans also share love for Cricket, Food and Culture.

They share a great relationship both off and on the cricket field. Cricket teams of both countries are counted amongst the fiercest teams in the world. The cricketing roots of India and South Africa date back to the 1990s. Post the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa, India took the lead and was the first country to invite the South African cricket team for their first international series after decades of the boycott. Later, South Africa reciprocated this gesture of goodwill and India became the first country to play a Test series in South Africa during 1992-93, which was a huge moment for South African cricket. South Africa has some of the most popular cricket grounds in the world like Kingsmead Cricket Stadium, Sahara Oval St. George’s Park, and Buffalo Park. The Kingsmead ground is also known for witnessing Yuvraj Singh’s famous record of hitting six consecutive sixers in the 2007 T20 World Cup.

Food is indeed a universal connector – it has the power to transcend cultural and social boundaries. South Africa’s lip-smacking street food, Bunny Chow (also known as the ‘bunny’) has Indian origins. A trip to the Rainbow Nation is incomplete without tasting the famous Bunny Chow. It is said that in the 19th century when both countries were British colonies, Indian migrant workers needed a way to carry their lunch to sugarcane fields. Filling hollowed-out bread loaf with vegetable curry was a convenient way to do this which gave birth to the famous ‘Bunny Chow’. It is believed that it was sold mainly by Indian Baniya community and from there, the term ‘bunny’ has arrived. In the local dialect, the word ‘chow’ is a slang for food.

Durban, the third most populous city of South Africa, shares close emotional and cultural ties with India. The lively culture of Durban is as much Indian as it is South African, making Indians feel at home as soon as you step into the city. In fact, Durban is home to one of the largest Indian communities that reside out of India. Almost every one in three people residing in Durban are of Indian origin. With their rich cultural practices, unique fusion cuisines, and sacred traditions, South African Indians form an integral part of South African society. In every nook and corner of Durban, you will find a glimpse of Indian culture whether it is through flavourful spices and curries, traditional clothing, music or dance. You will be sure to witness a beautiful amalgamation of cultures in Durban which boasts of cultural harmony and peace.

Promoting the destination through the eyes of Indian influencers, Neliswa explaimed that as a country South Africa understands Indians in terms of culture, language, travel requirements and food. Their advertisement campaign are based on, ‘India for India by India within India’.

South Africa is one of the most affordable countries for Indians and in order to entice consumers to explore new provinces, South African Tourism is currently running its flagship “More & More” brand campaign across target cities. The tourism board is also set to host its renown Corporate Think Tank in the coming months to engage with Indian corporates and address their business and MICE travel needs. At present, several stop-over flights fly from India to South Africa, including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Air Seychelles.

As a government body, South Africa Tourism is committed to meaningfully contributing to the South African government’s objectives of inclusive economic growth, sustainable job creation, and redistribution and transformation of the industry. They are working strongly to create a smooth and easy path for travel formalities like Visa and documents requirements. More and cheaper flights are in the pipeline and scheduled to be launched before the last quarter of 2024. In its mission to invite more tourists, the tourism board will continue with its efforts to improve accessibility and encourage dialogues aimed at establishing direct routes to boost tourism and trade between the two nations.

Interim Budget 2024-2025

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On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the interim budget 2024 that focused on fiscal consolidation, infrastructure, agriculture, green growth, and railways. This was her sixth budget presented in the Lok Sabha.

The interim Union Budget speech made by Nirmala Sitharaman was well suited for an election year, projecting a rear-view reflection of the Modi government’s record of “Governance, Development and Performance (GDP)”, as claimed in her own words.

The Interim Budget 2024 outlines the fiscal roadmap for the country until a full budget is introduced in July 2024.

Here are the key highlights of the Interim Union Budget 2024 and its potential impact on the overall economic growth.

1.    Economic Growth

Building on the massive tripling of the capital expenditure outlay in the past 4 years resulting in a huge multiplier impact on economic growth and employment creation, the outlay for the next year is being increased by 11.1 percent to 11.11 lakh crore, announced the FM. This is 3.4 percent of the GDP.

2.    Boosting infrastructure development

Continuing its impetus on infrastructure development as an imperative to achieve its ambition of ‘Viksit Bharat’, the Government has allocated substantial funds for the construction of highways, railways, airports, and advancement of other critical infrastructure development projects. Acknowledging that the infrastructure sector is the backbone of the economy, this investment is expected to create new business opportunities, enhance connectivity, and stimulate economic growth.

3. Focus on Research and Development

Recognising the importance of innovation and technology, the Interim Budget 2024 allocates significant funds for research and development (R&D) initiatives. This move is expected to foster innovation, enhance competitiveness, and incentivize the private sector to substantially enhance research and innovation efforts and drive growth in sectors such as technology, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.

4. Reduction in fiscal deficit

Fiscal deficit essentially shows the amount of money that the government borrows from the market. It does so to bridge the gap between its expenses and income. Fiscal deficit is the most-watched variable, because if a government borrows more, it leaves a smaller pool of money for the private sector to borrow from. That, in turn, leads to higher interest rates, and further dragging down economic activity in the form of lower consumption and production. If the government tries to print more money instead of borrowing from the market, that too leads to negative effects such as inflation. Retiring old debt eventually requires governments to tax its citizens, which, again, drags down economic activity.

It is for this reason that the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act of 2003 requires the Union government to contain its fiscal deficit to just 3% of the nominal GDP. However, barring 2007-08, India has never met this target.

The deficit had worsened in the wake of the Covid pandemic — shot up to 9.2% of GDP — but since then the government has been able to bring it down each year. In the current year, the government had set a target of 5.9% and revised estimates show it is likely to be even lower at 5.8%. Further, the FM has announced similarly ambitious targets for FY25 — at 5.1% of GDP— and FY26 — at 4.5% of GDP.

This is a welcome achievement because it is likely to bring down the cost of borrowing for the private sector.

5. Skill Development and Education

Continuing with the focus on the empowerment of the youth, the budget places a strong emphasis on skill development and education, recognising the role of a skilled workforce in driving economic growth. The Government has allocated funds to enhance vocational training programmes, promote digital literacy, and establish centres of excellence.

6. Sustainable Development and Green Initiatives

In line with global sustainability goals and its commitment to meet the net zero commitments, the Interim Union Budget 2024 emphasises sustainable development and green initiatives. The Government has allocated funds for renewable energy projects, waste management, and pollution control measures.

7. Tax proposals

While the Finance Minister did not propose any significant changes relating to taxation, she announced that over the last 10 years, tax collections have more than doubled. There were announcements on the extension of sunset dates for certain tax benefits to start-ups, investments made by sovereign wealth funds/pension funds and some International Financial Services centre units from 1st  April 2024 to 31st  March 2025. On the other hand, the sunset date of 31 March 2024 applicable for claim of concessional tax rate by a new domestic manufacturing company has not received any extension.

The provisions relating to Tax Collection at Source on remittance under the ‘Liberalised Remittance Scheme’ and payment for overseas tour program package have been rationalised.

8. Solarization Scheme

Through roof-top solarize pannels, 10 million households will be enabled to obtain up to 300 units of free electricity every month. This scheme follows the resolve of the Prime Minister on the historic day of the consecration of Shri Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, said FM Nirmala Sitharaman.

9. GST

On the GST front, continuing its focus to encourage voluntary compliances / registrations, input Service Distributor mechanism has been made mandatory for distribution of input tax credit, and penalty provisions are proposed to be introduced for failure to register certain machines used in manufacture of specified tobacco-based goods.

10 Income Tax is biggest income generator

Traditionally, the biggest chunk in the government’s financial resources comes from market borrowings. Among the genuine income generators, it is the indirect taxes and the corporate tax that provide the most money. But budget estimates for the next financial years show that income tax collections will be the top contributor (after borrowings).

The Budget documents suggest that income tax revenues will account for 19% of all government resources in FY25. Corporate tax will account for 17%, GST for 18% and borrowings for 28%. All in all, the Interim Union Budget 2024 sets a positive tone, with its focus on infrastructure development, research and development, skill development, and sustainable initiatives.

Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau Presents the 7th Edition of Penang Roadshow to India 2024

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India: Penang, as a destination, is celebrated for its unique blend of cultural richness and contemporary allure. In order to promote this concept, The Penang Odyssey campaign has been launched by Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau (PCEB) with an aim to elevate Penang as the preferred destination for both business meetings and leisure escapades in the Indian market.

PCEB has organized the highly anticipated 7th edition of the Penang Roadshow to India 2024, spanning across four diverse cities from 15 to 22 January – Mumbai (15 January), New Delhi (17 January), Chennai (19 January), and Kochi (22 January). This expansive roadshow provided a unique opportunity for Indian travel enthusiasts and industry professionals to immerse themselves in the offerings of The ‘Penang Odyssey’ campaign.

The Penang Odyssey aimed to showcase Penang’s diverse offerings, forging connections that transcend borders and unveiled the immense potential for collaboration between Penang and the Indian travel industry with the participation of over 200 buyers from each city.

In line with its mission to incubate the growth of Business Events in Penang, PCEB serves as Penang’s focal point for the coordination of all Business Events activities, providing expert assistance to organisations and Business Events planners at every step of the planning. PCEB’s team of industry experts work hand-in-hand with professional service providers and world-class hotels, convention centres and unique venues to ensure the smoothness and success of each event organised.

In 2023, Penang hosted around 600 events with 160,000 delegates, signaling a robust event calendar with an estimated economic impact (EEI) of RM1 billion. This accomplishment sends a resounding message of confidence, highlighting Penang’s readiness and capability to host large-scale, world-class events, reinforcing its position as a premier destination for business and leisure. Malaysia’s commitment to facilitating seamless travel experiences is underscored by the recent nationwide introduction of a visa-free regime, allowing stays of up to 30 days starting from 1 December 2023 to 31 December 2024. This strategic move enhances accessibility for Indian visitors and presents a significant opportunity to further strengthen direct airline connectivity with India. Recognizing the growing demand and interest from the Indian market, Penang is actively working to establish additional direct flights, providing more convenient options for those looking to explore the vibrant charm of Penang.

The Next Wave of Superheroes Has Arrived with Astonishing Impact

We woke reasonably late following the feast and free flowing wine the night before. After gathering ourselves and our packs, we headed down to our homestay family’s small dining room for breakfast.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

We were making our way to the Rila Mountains, where we were visiting the Rila Monastery where we enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast, mekitsi, local jam and peppermint tea.

We wandered the site with other tourists

Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.

Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed.

Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex.

We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.

Clothes can transform your mood and confidence. Fashion moves so quickly that, unless you have a strong point of view, you can lose integrity. I like to be real. I don’t like things to be staged or fussy. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have a place to escape to. You have to stay true to your heritage, that’s what your brand is about.

The Weirdest Places Ashes Have Been Scattered in South America

We woke reasonably late following the feast and free flowing wine the night before. After gathering ourselves and our packs, we headed down to our homestay family’s small dining room for breakfast.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

We were making our way to the Rila Mountains, where we were visiting the Rila Monastery where we enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast, mekitsi, local jam and peppermint tea.

We wandered the site with other tourists

Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.

Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed.

Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex.

We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.

Clothes can transform your mood and confidence. Fashion moves so quickly that, unless you have a strong point of view, you can lose integrity. I like to be real. I don’t like things to be staged or fussy. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have a place to escape to. You have to stay true to your heritage, that’s what your brand is about.

How Nancy Reagan Gave Glamour and Class to the White House

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We woke reasonably late following the feast and free flowing wine the night before. After gathering ourselves and our packs, we headed down to our homestay family’s small dining room for breakfast.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

We were making our way to the Rila Mountains, where we were visiting the Rila Monastery where we enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast, mekitsi, local jam and peppermint tea.

We wandered the site with other tourists

Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.

Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed.

Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex.

We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.

Clothes can transform your mood and confidence. Fashion moves so quickly that, unless you have a strong point of view, you can lose integrity. I like to be real. I don’t like things to be staged or fussy. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have a place to escape to. You have to stay true to your heritage, that’s what your brand is about.

Mobile Marketing is Said to Be the Future of E-Commerce

0

We woke reasonably late following the feast and free flowing wine the night before. After gathering ourselves and our packs, we headed down to our homestay family’s small dining room for breakfast.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

We were making our way to the Rila Mountains, where we were visiting the Rila Monastery where we enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast, mekitsi, local jam and peppermint tea.

We wandered the site with other tourists

Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.

Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed.

Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex.

We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.

Clothes can transform your mood and confidence. Fashion moves so quickly that, unless you have a strong point of view, you can lose integrity. I like to be real. I don’t like things to be staged or fussy. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have a place to escape to. You have to stay true to your heritage, that’s what your brand is about.

Entrepreneurial Advertising: The Future Of Marketing

0

We woke reasonably late following the feast and free flowing wine the night before. After gathering ourselves and our packs, we headed down to our homestay family’s small dining room for breakfast.

Refreshingly, what was expected of her was the same thing that was expected of Lara Stone: to take a beautiful picture.

We were making our way to the Rila Mountains, where we were visiting the Rila Monastery where we enjoyed scrambled eggs, toast, mekitsi, local jam and peppermint tea.

We wandered the site with other tourists

Yet strangely the place did not seem crowded. I’m not sure if it was the sheer size of the place, or whether the masses congregated in one area and didn’t venture far from the main church, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by tourists in the monastery.

Headed over Lions Bridge and made our way to the Sofia Synagogue, then sheltered in the Central Market Hall until the recurrent (but short-lived) mid-afternoon rain passed.

Feeling refreshed after an espresso, we walked a short distance to the small but welcoming Banya Bashi Mosque, then descended into the ancient Serdica complex.

We were exhausted after a long day of travel, so we headed back to the hotel and crashed.

I had low expectations about Sofia as a city, but after the walking tour I absolutely loved the place. This was an easy city to navigate, and it was a beautiful city – despite its ugly, staunch and stolid communist-built surrounds. Sofia has a very average facade as you enter the city, but once you lose yourself in the old town area, everything changes.

Clothes can transform your mood and confidence. Fashion moves so quickly that, unless you have a strong point of view, you can lose integrity. I like to be real. I don’t like things to be staged or fussy. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t have a place to escape to. You have to stay true to your heritage, that’s what your brand is about.