//India should step up investment in the Caribbean: Shekhawat

India should step up investment in the Caribbean: Shekhawat

Nov 14, 2006, IANS

On Board Air India One, Nov 14 (IANS) Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat wants Indian industrialists to capitalise on investment opportunities offered by the Caribbean countries.

'Good relations between India and the Caribbean countries mean progress and development for both sides,' Shekhawat said while speaking to reporters accompanying him on board the special Air India aircraft while returning to India from a two-nation tour of Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

Referring to the new Providence Cricket Stadium in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown that has been built with India's help, he said it has established India's technical prowess besides making the Caribbean people aware of New Delhi as an economic partner on their path of development.

The new stadium, to be used during the cricket world cup next year, was officially dedicated to the Guyanese public by the vice president during the course of his three-day visit to that country.

The Indian government had given $6 million as grant and $19 million as a concessional line of credit for the construction of the 15,000-seat stadium.

'The cricket stadium in Guyana is an investment for India and we expect good results from it,' Shekhawat said.

Besides this, India will also help set up a traffic lights system in the Guyanese capital.

Investment opportunities in Guyana range from bauxite, gold and diamond mining to metal processing and forestry.

In Trinidad & Tobago, the two sides finalised the draft of a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement.

Trade between India and Trinidad & Tobago, the most prosperous among the Caribbean countries, stood at Rs.1.7 billion in 2005.

Following the establishment of a steel plant in Trinidad & Tobago by NRI tycoon Lakshmi Narayan Mittal, a number of Indian companies have invested in that country. While New India Assurance Company has established a branch there, Bank of Baroda, which already has a branch in Guyana, is planning one more in the Trinidad & Tonago capital of Port-of-Spain.

The Essar group is also planning a $1.2 billion steel plant in Trinidad & Tobago.

The country's economy is booming with investment opportunities in the oil, gas and petrochemical sectors.

Asked what steps the Indian government would take to encourage industrialists to invest in that oil and natural gas-rich country, Shekhawat said: 'The industrialists know investing in which country would be beneficial for them. They need not take permission from the government in investing in the Caribbean countries.'

The vice president also wants the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean to establish contacts with their roots in India.

'I would like them to know that India remembers them and needs them,' he said.

'From India's end too, we should help them in their efforts to trace their roots in India. Only when work is done from the two ends can the process be successful,' he said.

While Guyana is home to over 325,000 ethnic Indians, Indo-Trinidadians number around 520,000. Most of them are descendants of Indians who had migrated to these countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries to work as indentured labour in sugarcane fields there.

Coming to the promotion of Indian culture in these countries, he said that the establishment of Indian cultural centres is a big step in that direction.

'The new Indian culture centre in Trinidad & Tobago (work for which will start soon) will go a long way in the promotion of the Hindi language in there,' he said.

Though most of the ethnic Indians in that region are descendants of people who had migrated from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, few among them can speak Hindi.

Asked about his overall view of the trip to Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, he said, 'I am confident that our diplomats in those countries will do a good job. And I am sure that there will be increasing awareness about India among the people in those countries.'