Indian PM steams in

2016-07-14 06:00
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi (middle) marches with guards of honour at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. PHOTO: Elmond Jiyane

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi (middle) marches with guards of honour at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. PHOTO: Elmond Jiyane

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INDIAN Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi arrived in South Africa last week as part of his two-day visit.

Msunduzi municipal Mayor Chris Ndlela welcomed Modi on Saturday morning at the Pietermaritzburg train station after Modi travelled from Durban to Pietermaritzburg by steam train.

Hosted by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu and various provincial executives, the train ride was representative of Mahatma Gandhi’s trip to Pretoria in 1893 when he was told to move to third class from the first class of the train.

Gandhi, with a first-class ticket in hand, refused and was kicked off the train at the Pietermaritzburg station.

A Gandhi statue was unveiled in 1993 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Pietermaritzburg. When Modi arrived, he laid a wreath at the monument, thereafter he made his way to Durban.

In Durban Modi said India and South Africa needs to improve their ties.

Modi, addressing dignitaries at Durban’s city hall, said improved trade and investment would remain a key component of relations.

Modi had met with President Jacob Zuma during his visit and they had also agreed to work on defence matters.

“Let’s take advantage of the opportunities of our partnership,” said Modi.

“The first Indians arrived here on November 16, 1860. They were 342 indentured labourers.

“Today, the city of Durban has the largest gathering of Indians outside India.”

Modi paid tribute to Indians living in South Africa and what they had achieved since settling in the province 156 years ago.

He said he was mindful that over the years Indians living here had endured apartheid and colonialism.

Even though they are now South African, they had preserved and maintained their culture and values.

“Today, they are proud citizens of this great country, having made great strides in education, the judiciary and medicine. Many are leading entrepreneurs.”

On his way to Durban, Modi also visited the Gandhi settlement in Inanda. Ela Gandi, Gandhi’s granddaughter, met him at the site with other local religious and community leaders.

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