Guyana, this past week sent a large delegation of some 25 parliamentarians to attend the People of Indian Origin (PIO) Parliamentary Conference in New Delhi, India. Twenty per cent of the parliamentarians attending the conference were from Guyana.
Guyana fielded the largest delegation. However, there was lopsided representation of the House on this visit. Seventeen of those attending from Guyana were from the parliamentary opposition, the People’s Progressive Party Civic. Only three were from the ruling APNU+AFC coalition.
India has the largest diaspora in the world. It is estimated that more than 16 million Indians live outside of India. The majority of them are economic migrants. Indians constitute 30% of the population of the United Arab Emirates. There are some 3.5 million Indians working in the Emirates, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
The Indian diaspora in the United States is far larger than Guyana – there are about four million persons of Indian-origin living in the United States, half of whom were born in India.
India has long been trying to tap its diaspora. It is pursuing a deliberate policy of networking with leaders of its diaspora. India, which is now emerging as a global powerhouse, sees the diaspora as strategic in projecting Indian soft-power externally. And with the largest diaspora in the world, it has the perfect mechanism to do this.
To understand the significance of having a diaspora parliamentarian conference, one has to note the description of the event by the Prime Minister of India. He described it as a mini-world parliament. And this is precisely the sort of clout that India needs as it projects itself internationally, both in economic and political terms. India sees the value of this grouping of parliamentarians because of its potential influence on geopolitics, a point made by Indian Prime Minister Modi in declaring open the conference.
The principal aim of India’s emphasis on its diaspora is however more economic than geopolitical. India is seeking investment overseas because of the strength of its industries. Modi however made it clear that India was not interested in exploiting any country’s resources or seizing their territory.
India has been offering significant assistance to Guyana in recent years. In a recent letter to the media, former President of Guyana Donald Ramotar observed that India is offering assistance to Guyana to do a number of projects. The coalition government has accepted all of the projects except the one which deals with Indian support to help to recapitalize the sugar industry.
But India’s support to Guyana is not about economics. It is part of India’s plan to wield international influence. India needs Guyana to support its thrust for a more influential role in the United Nations Security Council and in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in other international bodies. India pushed back this week against US pressures within the WTO.
This past week also, the Trump administration deemed India as a global power. However, the United States does not seem as threatened by India as it is by China’s economic preeminence in the world today. India’s value to the US is that it can act as a balancer of China’s power in the Asian region.
India is worried about the threat of increased western protectionism. The anti-immigration trends in Europe can also have a negative effect on the Indian diaspora.
India therefore needs developing countries to support its candidates in the aforementioned organizations. This was the significance of the People of Indian Origin Parliamentary Conference.
Guyana should support India. India has never dabbled in local politics. It does not present a threat to Guyana. The interests of the two countries when it comes to global politics coincide. India is showing that it is prepared to fight for developing countries and to prevent policies which are harming these countries.
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