December 8, 2006
The visit of the Vice- President of India, Sri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to Guyana to dedicate the cricket stadium at Providence brings to the fore the growing presence of India on the world stage. The stadium, of course, was built with a grant and a soft loan from India , and is just the tip of the iceberg of assistance that Guyana has received in its thrust for development.
Much of the local reaction to India has unfortunately been coloured by sentimentality of one sort or another, based on the happenstance that almost half of our population originated from that land.
It is salutary to remember that, while one cannot ignore that fact (and in fact ought to exploit it more), the Government of India has had extremely cordial relations with the Government of Guyana, whether it was in the hands of the PNC or the PPP. In fact, the only Head of Government of India to visit Guyana was Mrs. Indira Gandhi, during the height of the PNC regime of Forbes Burnham.
This should remind us of the axiom that in international relations, for any country, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent interests. And at this moment in history, it is in our national interest to cultivate close relations with India , if for nothing else but the fact that India is at long last fulfilling its promise of regaining its old position as one of the leading countries of the world. To use the cliché, everyone now concedes that, along with China , India is ineluctably headed in a trajectory to become a superpower within another two decades.
The signs abound everywhere. Its GDP growth rate for the second quarter of 2006 has surpassed projections, and has brought its cumulative growth for the year to 8.9 %, ensuring that India will remain on the stellar growth path achieved over the last decade. India has achieved its spectacular growth, not by focusing on becoming the world's workshop – which has been shown historically to be a very slippery slope to remain expanding.
Rather it has flummoxed most of the pundits by taking on corporations from inside the developed countries, and provided sophisticated services for them at a fraction of their domestic costs. “Outsourcing” is now a word inextricably linked with India . Thus, while India has a merchandise account deficit, this is made insignificant by surpluses in its services and transfers accounts.
The secret of India 's success holds lessons for Guyana . The highly educated and skilled workforce of India (it produces, for instance, more engineers annually than the rest of the world combined) is an asset that defies the usual stereotype that “capital” for development has to be only huge factories and dams.
Human capital can be the most productive type of capital – and in a globalised world, it does not have to be massive. The graduates of the Indian Technical Institutes are now recruited by firms from across the globe. For India , of course, it does not hurt that its 1.1 billion population is much younger on the average that its erstwhile future rival, China . They will be able to provide their services for a much longer period.
India , of course, has not been standing still in manufacturing. And this is not confined to projects, such as the construction of our cricket stadium that has impressed so many. Quite a few of its major old-line firms are taking over foreign corporations in diverse fields to form world-class manufacturing enterprises. For instance, the venerable Tata Steel has recently bought out one of its much larger rivals, the Dutch producer Corus.
The Mittal family, who owns the largest steel company in the world, while of Indian origin, are not resident in India – but provides the example that Indians can run global enterprises.
So we welcome Vice-President Shekhawat, and wish that Indian-Guyanese relations would continue to flourish. After all, if India now has the confidence to declare they will embark on a manned mission to the moon, they are certainly rising.