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Defence ties among India, Brazil, South Africa to be strengthened

By Amit Baruah

NEW DELHI, MARCH 5. India, Brazil and South Africa have agreed, in principle, to hold joint military exercises and train their personnel. An accord on this was reached between the Defence Ministers of the three countries in Pretoria on February 1.

India and Brazil, having the necessary manufacturing capability, operate the Type 209 diesel-electric submarine and South Africa was in the process of acquiring three of them.

Elaborating on the possibility of joint development and manufacture of defence equipment, officials pointed out that India and South Africa were acquiring the same trainer jet — the Hawk from Britain.

Brazil has reportedly shown interest in the purchase of the Umkhonto surface-to-air missile of South Africans for deployment on its aircraft carrier, ``Sao Paulo,'' as well as on missile corvettes.

On the possibility of cooperation between the three countries on development of missiles, the officials did not provide any details due to the sensitive nature of the subject. But they said the areas of cooperation would be discussed in September in Pretoria. During the January visit of the Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to New Delhi, a framework agreement was signed for the peaceful use of outer space, which provides for receiving and collecting data from the Indian remote sensing satellite in Brazil and the possibility of launching the Brazilian micro-satellite, EQUARAS, from India, the officials said.

`Plan of action'

That defence cooperation is very much on the agenda was confirmed by the "Plan of Action" issued by the Foreign Ministers of the three countries after a two-day Trilateral Commission Meeting of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum that ended today.

Referring to the Defence Ministers meeting, the Plan of Action said: "The Ministers agreed that it would be mutually beneficial to foster interaction amongst them, noting that their defence industries had developed excellence in diverse areas, which could offer a broad range of potential opportunities — capitalising on each others' respective strengths — for cooperation in defence production, co-development, trade and joint marketing."

The Defence Ministers have agreed that in the interest of promoting international security, the three countries would cooperate towards promoting maritime and air safety, including combating illegal weapons and narcotics traffic and maritime transit of toxic chemicals and radioactive waste across Indian and Atlantic Oceans,the Plan of Action said.

Asked about defence cooperation at a three-way press conference, the South African Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the three countries were looking at "everything."

Her counterpart from Brazil, Celso Amorim, said the Defence Ministers meeting had preceded the first meeting of the Trilateral Joint Commission of the IBSA Dialogue Forum.

For his part, the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, said the Defence Ministers would be meeting annually and their next session would be in Brazil in 2005.

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