x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

India 'miffed' at South Africa bilateral talks snub

The Indian government is angry at the South African president's failure to hold bilateral talks with its prime minister during last week's Brics summit, a newspaper reported.

South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, left, welcomes Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh before the official opening of the fifth BRICS summit in Durban.
South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, left, welcomes Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh before the official opening of the fifth BRICS summit in Durban.

NEW DELHI // The Indian government is angry at the South African president's failure to hold bilateral talks with its prime minister during last week's Brics summit, a newspaper reported.

The Indian delegation headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was keen to have a meeting with President Jacob Zuma on the sidelines of the summit in Durban from March 26-27.

But according to The Sunday Express, the entire schedule drawn up by the host country was in disarray and the two leaders were unable to hold talks.

Mr Zuma did manage meetings with his Chinese and Russian counterparts.

The Indian premier was scheduled to meet Mr Zuma on March 26 but the plan had to be abandoned because the meeting between South Africa and Russia overshot by an hour, the paper said.

On March 27, South Africa's foreign minister wanted Mr Singh to meet Mr Zuma for 15-20 minutes. But by then, according to TheExpress, the Indians were livid at the lack of respect for protocol and refused to comply at such short notice.

But South Africa's foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela played down the story as an April Fool's joke.

The two leaders "met not once, not twice, they met numerous times during the summit", he said.

"All the issues they are raising in that story are ridiculous, it's an April Fool's story, as far as I am concerned."

The paper said the Indians were also upset by the accommodation arrangements.

Mr Singh and Indian diplomats were allotted a resort at Zimbali, 40 kilometres from Durban, while the Brazilian, Russian and Chinese leaders were lodged in hotels within the city.

Mr Singh had to travel into the city on both days of the summit and also suffer long delays in the programme, the TheExpress said.

The hotel was picked by the Indian delegation's advance team a few months ago, said Mr Monyela.

"They toured that hotel. They were happy with the arrangements. They chose it, they had been to that hotel many times," he said.

Last year, Mr Zuma vowed that trade between South Africa and India would reach $15 billion (Dh55bn) per year before a self-imposed 2014 deadline, and both sides agreed to increase commercial exchanges.