“TnT PM being Chief Guest conveys a certain message to the world”

Mr Malay Mishra has been India’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago for nearly three years. During his tenure the CHOGM took place in Port of Spain, and that meant a visit by the Indian Prime Minister to this important island nation in the Caribbean. He co-organized with the University of West Indies a conclave on the Indian Diaspora in 2011 that was attended among others by the Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs. He’s propelled Indo-TnT relations to greater heights. He speaks to Sayantan Chakravarty of INDIA EMPIRE

HE Malay Mishra, High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago

You’ve successfully carried out an Indo-Trinidad Conclave in May-June 2011. What according to you were the highlights of the Conclave?

The conclave was a part of the 2-day Conference on the diaspora in the Caribbean. It was the business part and was jointly inaugurated by our visiting Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Mr Vayalar Ravi and T&T Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Cadiz. The Conclave saw the participation of an important business delegation led by CII in certain identified areas. Most importantly, T&T Prime Minister Mrs Kamla Persad-Bissessar delivered the feature address calling for greater cooperation in business and investment between our two countries. It is a happy coincidence that in a few days from now the Prime Minister would be leading an important business and technology mission to India with the focused objective of promoting greater trade, investment, business and technical cooperation between our two countries.

Please tell us about the business impetus that has been generated over the last three years between the two nations? 

Creating awareness of the potentialities on each other’s side and relating to the contemporary societies of India and T&T has been both a challenge as well as an accomplishment. Several trade and business initiatives have been taken by the High Commission here. A large number of business seminars have been held in several areas of potential importance. We have also hosted important delegations from India in the areas of energy, SMEs, agriculture, traditional medicine and the like. The doors are now open to make a leap forward in seizing the business opportunities which can make dynamic our bilateral relation and take them to a qualitatively higher level. The forthcoming state visit of the T&T leader, I am sure will provide the required impetus for that. 

It is significant that Trinidad and Tobago’s PM is Chief Guest at the PBD 2012. It is a message to the world about TnT’s importance and significance. What are your observations? 

Indeed the T&T PM being the Chief Guest at PBD 2012 conveys a certain message to the world. The message is about rewarding a small diaspora pre-dominant country with this distinction by recognizing a pre-eminent woman leader of the diaspora, the single woman Prime Minister in the entire diaspora world. The message is also to underscore our deep historical and cultural links and to build on that. I have no doubt that with the participation of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar as the Chief Guest at PBD 2012, T&T will be known the world over as an economy in full throttle waiting to be explored, a plural dynamic society worth adulation. 

You are concurrently accredited to other countries in the region and visit many other Caribbean nations. Do you see an interest in India developing in this region as a whole? 

I do see an interest in many of the smaller Caribbean Islands having a larger interest in India. For example, in Grenada we have set up an ICT Centre for Excellence with CDAC having provided the hardware as well as software and the trainers as well. A similar centre is coming up in the Commonwealth of Dominica as well. Besides, we have had important MOUs signed with the Commonwealth of Dominica in the area of agriculture. Both the islands as well as the tiny territory of Montserrat have shown interest in seeking cooperation in the field of SMEs and it has been recognized that SME is one of the important areas to revive these small Island economies. Besides, India as an important knowledge and technology provider to the developing world has not lost its meaning. India, on the other hand, has also been developing its links with the CARICOM which is the largest grouping of the Caribbean community with all these Islands as members. The future augurs well for India’s cooperation with many Islands in the Caribbean and vice versa. 

You have also been associated with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs right from its inception. What kind of role has this Ministry come to play in matters related to the Global Indian? 

I see tremendous achievements which the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs has made since its inception in 2004. While the Ministry has set its policies in place in generating a symbiotic relationship with the global diaspora, the diaspora in turn has recognized the importance of India in reaching out to them in many of India’s social areas such as education, healthcare, rural development, women’s empowerment etc. Overseas Indians have come to feel secure today with their interests protected and voices heard while they find better traction in developing relations with their host countries. 

Do you think the Ministry needs to deal with two distinct diasporas differently? On one hand is the diaspora made up of descendants of indentured workers, and on the other the newer immigrants who moved mostly to the West starting about 50 years ago. 

There is no doubt that two distinct diasporas exist even now. However, in this world of increasing globalization and integration of the global economy, the lines between the two are blurring. The Ministry, while recognizing the distinctiveness of each diaspora in shaping its specific policies towards their requirements, could look at the global picture and take on tasks which are universally applicable to the Indian Diaspora. Our Missions abroad could play a vital role in this regard by maintaining close links with the Overseas Indian communities. 

As High Commissioner what is the most abiding memory of your tenure in Trinidad and Tobago. 

There are many distinct memories of my tenure in T&T and it is difficult indeed to put down the most abiding one. This is a society which is unique in its flavour of having four substantial civilizational streams, the Indian, Chinese, African and European. In fact T&T is a unique example of a country having amalgamated the best of these civilizations in building a new entity called the Trinbagonian. The music, dance and various other art forms, festivals, rituals and the like, of every distinct community become a part of every inhabitant of this land and is shared by one and all. In this optic the most abiding moment, if at all, could be of having lived in this unique environment and building bridges between the contemporary societies of India and T&T.

January 2012

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