June 11, 2004
THE close ties that exist between India and Guyana got even closer yesterday, when the Indian Navy vessel, TABAR, anchored in the Demerara River on the seventh leg of a goodwill round-the-world tour on its way home in Mumbai.
The ship lists Guyana among only ten countries it is visiting from its commissioning in Baltiysk, Russia, in April. That, we see, as very significant for India-Guyana relations.
It underscores the extent to which India is going to belabor the depth of bilateral relationship with Guyana and offers possibilities of India establishing or improving and expanding military ties with Guyana.
Of course, relations between Guyana and India go deeper than country-to-country friendship. The historical link dates back to 1838, when the first batch of indentured labourers came to then British Guiana to replace just-freed African slaves on the country's sugar plantations.
For the Africans, Emancipation at that point was a welcome relief from years of human bondage, and most quickly dissociated themselves from the plantations, preferring to form cooperatives, buy up land that they transformed into villages, and operate self-employed ventures rather than stay on the sugar estates and relive the cruel memories of slavery.
It took the Indians, who initially had come on five-year contracts, to replace the Africans on the estates. Although facing no less favourable working conditions, they agreed to extend their contracts or stay on permanently, making Guyana their new home.
Guyana and India formally established diplomatic relations on May 26, 1966, the day Guyana became an independent country. And relations between the two countries have been improving ever since.
Today, relations between the two countries couldn't be better. India has undertaken to help finance the construction of Guyana's first stadium, expected to be built for the upcoming World Cup Cricket in 2007.
A visit to India by President Jagdeo in August of last year promoted ties in industry, commerce, and technology, among other areas, that could aid in the development of the Guyanese economy. And both sides have committed to the re-establishment of a Guyana High Commission in New Delhi.
Guyana enjoys India scholarships and India has agreed to increase the quota of ITEC scholarships offered to Guyana from 25 to 35. The possibility of deputing Indian ITEC experts in key sectors identified by Guyana would be considered favourably.
The Government of India has agreed to extend to Guyana a concessional line of credit of US$25.2 million, through the Exim Bank of India, for the modernization of three sugar plants surveyed by a team from Sugar Technology Mission of India. The Indian side has also agreed to consider extending a similar concessional line of credit through Exim Bank of India for the modernization of the remaining sugar plants in Guyana.
As a measure of its commitment to further strengthening India-Guyana relations, India agreed to waive off the balance of Rs. 28.78 million owed by Guyana to India against the first Credit Line of Rs. 100 million extended by India in 1989. A formal waiver document to this effect was signed during President Jagdeo's visit.
India has also offered help to Guyana to combat crime, and the goodwill visit of TABAR could see the two countries eventually cementing an agreement on military cooperation.
The list citing India-Guyana cooperation is inexhaustible. Guyanese are ever grateful for India's support for Guyana's development thrust and are looking forward to bilateral ties manifesting in the construction of the stadium and in many other areas of tangible assistance.