Military exercises with China, Russia normal process for South Africa: foreign minister Pandor

NewsDrum Desk
24 Jan 2023

Johannesburg, Jan 24 (PTI) The joint naval exercises scheduled to be hosted by South Africa with Russia and China next month are part of the normal process of training of the country’s defence forces, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor has said.

The minister was addressing a press conference on Monday together with her Russain counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who was visiting the country.

The ministers were reacting to local media reports that attacked South Africa for undertaking the exercises in February at a "sensitive time" when Russia was at war with Ukraine.

Lavrov was the first to defend the drills.

"They are three sovereign countries. They don’t violate any norms of international laws. They will conduct international exercises. I don’t understand how they can provoke a mixed reaction,” Lavrov said, suggesting that perhaps this had been instigated by the US.

“Maybe only with our American colleagues, because they believe that only they can have exercises all over the world; not only at more than 200 military bases all over the world but at any place. Now they are actively involved in naval exercises in the Pacific and near China in the Taiwan Strait, and it does not provoke any mixed reactions.

“Our exercises are transparent. We together with our South African and Chinese partners have provided all the relevant information – it is available. The practice of trilateral exercises is not something new. We had similar drills with the participation of Indian and China,” he said.

Lavrov said the partners in the exercises were “perplexed” by “the way our Western colleagues provoke such noise around ordinary things in the life of sea powers, especially in a situation where Western countries conduct such drills much more often than we do.” Pandor said the exercises were part of a programme of military drills that the South African Defence Force has as part of agreements with many countries worldwide.

She said nobody had questioned exercises which had been conducted by South Africa with the US and France last year.

“These are all exercises we undertake to hone the skills of our military to be able to respond to a range of situations, including disaster management, in which our military often plays a role in addressing.

“All countries conduct military exercises with friends worldwide. So there should be no compulsion on any country that it should conduct them with any other partner. It’s part of a natural course of relations between countries,” Pandor said.

Pandor also said the current world order was not in favour of poor and developing countries.

“The world, particularly in the financial and economic domain, is greatly influenced by rules developed in Breton Woods institutions. These institutions do not always take account of the developmental needs of the poorest and most vulnerable countries,” she said.

Pandor said BRICS countries was giving attention to how the needs of those countries could be addressed.

“We would have fairer trade and financial rules in the economic domain, because at the moment, the rules of these institutions really work against the poorest and most marginalised.

“So this is the task that we as the BRICS countries need to look at with far greater concentration and really look at what form of reform or radical change we want to see in the IMF, the World Bank and other developmental finance institutions which do not as yet sufficiently focus on the development aspect,” the minister said.

The five BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - represent over 3.6 billion people or half of the world population. PTI FH PY MRJ

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