SAAF Chief on goodwill visit to India


Chief of the South African Air Force (SAAF), Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo, recently completed a goodwill visit to India, meeting with the heads of the Indian defence force and its three services (Army, Navy and Air Force).

Mbambo arrived in New Delhi on 7 November at the invitation of the Government of India and specifically Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force.

Accompanied by his spouse and delegation, Mbambo immediately visited Gandhi Smriti at New Delhi, a museum dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.

During his visit, the SAAF chief met with the Indian Chief of Defence Staff (General Bipin Rawat), Chief of Army Staff (General MM Naravane), Chief of Air Staff (Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari) and the Vice Chief of Naval Staff (Vice Admiral SN Ghormade) – a meeting with the Chief of Naval Staff could not take place due to the Indian CNS being out of Delhi with prior commitments.

Mbambo also laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in New Delhi, which is dedicated to Indian soldiers who fought in the various armed battles of independent India.

The existing strong defence cooperation between India and South Africa is extremely important considering both countries are notable regional players, deepening the existing bond of their historical relationship.

The visit by Service Chiefs of friendly foreign countries to India is of great significance as it further augments and strengthens Service to Service cooperation. This ranges from training exchanges, military exercises and sharing of each other’s good practices. This includes Exercise IBSAMAR, a series of major naval exercises between the navies of South Africa, India and Brazil held biannually since 2008.

India and South Africa witness frequent high level military visits, however, the visit by Mbambo (who was appointed as CAF on 1 May) is significant as it took place after a year of little activity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These visits also enable a strengthening of the overall Defence Cooperation between the two countries.

This was not the first visit to India by a SAAF Chief, with Lieutenant General Fabian Msimang visiting India in October 2014 and Lieutenant General Roelf Beukes paying a visit in October 2000.