Release of India High Commission to Guyana:
Deepening ties, expanding economic cooperation.
Relations between India and Guyana have always been cordial and strong ever since the two nations formally established diplomatic ties more than 50 years ago but have deepened in recent years through bilateral relations punctuated by exchange visits at the highest levels.
This ever growing friendship is expected to assume new heights with the visit from Minister of External Affairs of India, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, a distinguished diplomat, who has been masterfully representing India’s interest on the global stage on a variety of complex issues.
Minister Jaishankar’s visit from April 20-24, 2023 to Guyana, follows closely on the heels of the official visits to India by President HE Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali in January of this year and Vice-President, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo in February 2023.
During his visit to India, HE President Ali was conferred with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (Indian Diaspora Award) by President of India, HE Droupadi Murmu and held discussions with Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on a wide range of issues, including energy cooperation, infrastructure development, pharmaceuticals, health care, technology and innovation, and defense corporation.
At the conclusion of his visit, HE President Ali in a briefing with local journalists, reported that “We are examining government-to-government relationship and government-to-government opportunities for [oil] exploration and production,” adding that: “There was tremendous interest in having close collaboration between the two governments on research and development, technology transfer, building out of our agri-food system, the echo system surrounding our food production and agriculture and enhancing productivity of our agriculture sector.”
On his part, Hon’ble Vice President Jagdeo told the Indian media corps that while India-Guyana relationship has always been strong, Guyana is working to expand this relationship and was keen to recognise India’s growing presence and respect in the international community, while pointing out that inevitably, India will be representing the Global South.
Hon’ble Minister Dr S Jaishankar, who met with Vice President Jagdeo, was very upbeat following their engagement, tweeting: “Delighted to meet Hon. Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, Vice President of Guyana, during his India visit. Discussed our historical relationship and greater opportunities in contemporary partnership, especially in trade, energy, agriculture, skills and people to people ties.” His tweet, aside from aptly capturing the discussion with the Honourable Vice President, which bodes well for expansion of economic cooperation, also underlined the historical relations between India and Guyana, which stretches back long before the two nations established diplomatic relations on May 26, 1966.
Though separated by continents, rivers and seas, India and Guyana are deeply connected in spirit. On May 5, 1838, the first batch of 396 Indians immigrants aboard the Whitby and Hesperus arrived in Guyana to work on the sugar plantation during the indentureship period which lasted from 1838 to 1917 and saw an estimated 240,000 Indians brought to these shores. Historical records indicate that many came from present day Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Today, their descendants account for the largest ethnic group in Guyana and have been credited with playing a major role in the social, political and economic transformation of this land they embrace as home.
Part of this development can be credited to India which has over the years provided over a thousand scholarships to Guyanese students to pursue studies in various disciplines aligned to priority areas of national development, at the undergraduate and post-graduate levels as well as short courses through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) schemes. This is just a small mention of India’s generosity towards Guyana.
India has provided significant assistance (US$25 million) to Guyana in the building of the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, East Bank Demerara; US$ 2.1 million in the supply and installation of 50 solar traffic lights; US$ 2.9 million in drainage pumps as well as US$ 2 million in the setting up of the Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT) at the University of Guyana (UG). Recently, India has delivered to Guyana the MV MA Lisha, built through a line of credit cum project grant from India to the tune of US$12.77 million that will serve the North-West region of Guyana. This ferry is expected to be formally jointly commissioned by HE President Irfaan Ali and EAM Dr S Jaishankar during his visit to Guyana.
India is also funding the construction of the Ogle-Eccles Road link. When completed, this road will significantly reduce the time commuters travel within these locations as well as open up areas for housing and commercial development. In addition, India has provided funding in the sum of US$17.5 million for the upgrade of the Suddie Regional Hospital, the West Demerara Hospital and the Bartica District Hospital and assistance for rice husk gasifier and quick impact community development projects. Notably, these supports from India and the growing friendship with Guyana have been underpinned by mutual respect and cooperation, acceptance of equal partners in business, non-interference in internal affairs and respect for territorial integrity.
These values characterise India’s affairs in the arena of global business, politics, trade and diplomacy and are imbedded in India’s values system, at the heart of which is the embrace of humanity. Here India stands as a giant in the world. Many will recall, less than two years ago in the throes of COVID-19, which was ravaging nations across the planet, India, notwithstanding its own challenges, quickly responded to the cries of distress, and Guyana was among the first countries to benefit from the Vaccine Maitri (vaccine friendship) programme. And in keeping with its reputation as the ‘Pharmacy of the World’, India extended this magnanimous gesture, supplying portions of its Oxford-AstraZeneca and Covaxin vaccines free of cost to scores of nations in need.
India’s service to humanity at the global level is worthy of note and emulation and cannot be more accurately elucidated by Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Honourable Hugh Hilton Todd, when he said the following:
“India has to take care of 1.3 billion people, in a democracy, with smooth transitions. Can you imagine having to take care of 1.3 billion people and still having the time at the policy level to say, ‘Let us look to see what we can do for the rest of the world’ when multilateral institution should be doing that; so I will dare say that India is a multilateral institution in its own right. When you think about their commitment to humanity, India is providing leadership at the global governance level and that is commendable for a country 75 years old. Think about it. In our lifetime, we have industrialised economies that were never colonised. Some were colonised centuries-old in terms of their post-independence but do you get the same attitude and commitment and conviction as you get from India?”
For India, her motto is expressed in the Sanskrit phrase, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, “The world is one family”.
Warmest welcome to Hon’ble External Affairs Minister of India Dr S Jaishankar and his delegation to Guyana and it is the hope that the friendship and commerce between Guyana and India will grow and deepen to the mutual benefit of their people.