President Ali and Vice President Jagan are commended for pursuing closer economic relations with India. Guyana historically has benefited from India’s generosity and kindness in spite of our country’s cold shoulder towards India by succeeding governments. Besides assisting in the economic realm, India has strong cultural ties with Guyana – over half of Guyana’s population traces their roots to India. And India supported Guyana’s struggle for independence as well as Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. India has sided with Guyana at international forums. In spite of such strong support from India, Guyana did not reciprocate in kind especially on business deals – like building factories, highways, bridges and other infrastructure works except when India is the financier of such projects.
The Irfaan Ali government has changed course. The President has wised up and opted to pursue closer economic relations with India resulting in several economic delegations visiting Guyana and signing memorandum of agreements in various areas. The President and Vice President also visited India in separate trips bolstering economic and political relations. The Foreign Minister (MEA) Dr S. Jaishankar also visited Guyana last week to strengthen relations. He is one of the most talked about Foreign Minister of any country by experts in Washington where he served as Ambassador some years ago.
Dr Jaishankar has been highly rated by intellectuals in International Relations. Jaishankar, a scholar in international relations and an expert on Russia, China, USA, and Japan has been conducting India’s foreign policy with great finesse. His diplomacy has redounded to positive benefits to the Indian economy. He has been traveling the globe to pursue economic tie ups between India and other countries. So it is no accident that he has visited Guyana and held round table business discussions with captains of industries. A Guyana-India Chamber of Commerce was launched in Georgetown. The MEA Dr Jaishankar announced there will be annual India-Guyana-Caricom business summits from next year alternating between India and the Caribbean. Guyana and the region stand to benefit enormously from economic ties with India which is the fastest growing major economy that is set to become number three in GDP by the end of this decade. Currently, India is number 6 just nipping the UK last year. Western economies, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are courting India for closer trade and political (security) ties.
The state of the Indian economy and western security has been a major talking point today. India has managed its economy well. While other major economies are on the brink of a recession, India has been growing. The economy contracted in 2020 because of Covid but has bounced back over the last two years recovering to pre-Covid level in terms of output. Unlike in other countries, inflation is relatively low in India. The Reserve Bank of India has done a great job in managing monetary policy. Interest rates were raised judiciously as in the USA, putting a handle on inflation. But unlike in USA where the economy has stalled, India’s economy has grown. Foreign exchange reserves were released strategically in India, buying and selling dollars to prevent the rupee exchange rate from wide fluctuation. Westerners see opportunities in India which has a stable economy and huge foreign exchange reserves.
As the war in Ukraine continues and hostility deepened in relations between the west, Australia, Japan and China, major Western companies are now looking at India as a potential investment destination. This will provide greater economic opportunities for India and increased trading between Guyana and India. It can also potentially lead to Indian companies investing in Guyana especially in food production to meet Western demands. Guyana can be an attraction to Indian investors in oil and gas, energy, agriculture, and education. It is important, therefore, that Guyana deepens ties with India. Greater benefits will follow.
It is recalled that Guyana and the Caribbean has benefited tremendously from India’s aid program over the last sixty five years. India doled out thousands of scholarships to students in the region valued hundreds of millions in American dollars as well as billions more of American dollars in non repayable grants, soft loans, vaccines, technical assistance, training, and other forms of aid to Guyana and the region.
Guyana can further benefit from India’s progress and expertise in the fields of science, engineering, data and economic strategy to consolidate Guyana’s path to development.
*(Dr Vishnu Bisram studied in India and is a specialist on Indian Affairs).