Wed | Dec 7, 2016

India looking to deepen ties with Jamaica, Caribbean

Published:Tuesday | July 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

NEW DELHI, India:

Jamaica has been targeted by the new administration in India as fertile ground for the deepening of relationships in order to strengthen that nation's multilateral systems.

The move is part of a bid to resuscitate India's sluggish economy, which the government is confident is now well poised for positive growth.

Navita Vinayak, who holds responsibility for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), made the disclosure while speaking with The Gleaner after meeting a delegation of editors and senior journalists at the CII's headquarters in the Indian capital of New Delhi yesterday.

"As an official who handles this region, I am assuring you that our engagements will definitely increase in the coming months," said Vinayak, who stressed that it was critical to forge new paths to build Brand India.

To this end, Vinayak said the efforts of the Indian government, which took office in May, at deepening ties are intended to go beyond mere trade arrangements that currently exist.

The country's annual growth in gross domestic product declined from 7.9 per cent in 2004 to five per cent in 2014, during a decade under then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

BREAKTHROUGH

The new prime minister, Narendra Modi, outlined plans to make a breakthrough into the Caribbean during his inaugural budget presentation recently.

Jamaica is among small island developing states that have been selected by the Indian government.

Instrumental in forging deeper bilateral ties with some countries in the region, CII has helped pushed India's sluggish economy in preparation for another phase with the new government.

Vinayak told The Gleaner during a post-meeting interview that the focus on the region at this time was generally limited to trade.

However, she stressed this would be changing as the new administration refashions its foreign affairs policy.

"Our focus, as a new administration, is to increase engagement with the (Latin American) region, especially the Caribbean.

FRESH INITIATIVES

Vinayak said the changing times have called for fresh initiatives.

"And so the regional grouping of CARICOM is definitely of great interest to us," she asserted.

The CII policy reports stated that there have been a host of rapid changes with far-reaching consequences.

"We realise that for the (Indian) industry to reach out to the wider industry base in the Caribbean region, we must increase our engagement with the region," said Vinayak.

"This means going full-fledged and showcase our strength, be it manufacturing or trade, and ... to this extent, we are in constant touch with our Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Commerce."

Vinayak said this means increased visibility in Jamaica and the region.

"There is the realisation that we increase our focus, not only by taking business delegations but we also plan to bring Indian shows to Jamaica and the region."

Like Jamaica, India is battling to reduce what it describes as a worrying 4.1 per cent fiscal deficit in 2014-2015.

That country also faces the uphill battle of replacing an antiquated taxation regime with a stable structure, and is focusing on an agricultural system that needs overhauling.

And like Jamaica, India relies heavily on remittances to bolster its economy. But it fares better than the much smaller Caribbean nation.

Economist at the CII, Bidisha Ganguly, said heavy intake of remittances in the amount of US$5 billion annually from Indian nationals residing in its oil-rich diaspora is used to assist in offsetting its worrying fiscal deficit.

She said India is also moving to create a common market and struggling to relieve itself of its poor reputation on ease of doing business.

Senior director at the CII, Neerja Bharia, noted that China, Qatar, the United States (US), Canada, Russia and France were India's original primary targets.

"We already have 302 memorandum of understanding partners, but we are moving to widen our scope," she disclosed.

Bharia said despite India's economic status, the populous country of 1.2 billion people remains the third largest economy in purchasing power behind the United States and China.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com