Interview : Malay Mishra

High Commissioner of India to Trinidad and Tobago

“The ITT Chamber will play a catalytic role”

High Commissioner of India in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Malay Mishra, spoke to Editor Sayantan Chakravarty on enhancing ties between the two nations. His interview came days before the launch of the India – Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce (ITT Chamber) in Port of Spain

Since you have taken over as High Commissioner, several things have moved forward very quickly. It must be giving you great satisfaction that now a body such as the ITTCIC has been formed, particularly since you have been instrumental in mooting the idea for such a trade entity…
Yes, it is a matter of great satisfaction that the India-T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce (ITTCIC) has been formed. This was a vision I had nurtured soon after assuming charge as High Commissioner of India as I had seen a great deal of potential for augmenting trade and investment ties between our two countries. It was a happy augury that a group of enthusiastic business persons of Trinidad have driven the idea forward and today that vision has become a reality.

The ITTCIC can work well when it is inclusive, and not exclusive. In that sense, the organization will work towards encouraging every community in T and T to find ways to develop business relations between India. What are your views?
Certainly, Trinidad and Tobago prides itself in being a plural society, setting a unique example in the Caribbean region. Thus, it is only natural that there should be representation of all sections of T&T society in the ITTCIC. The organization has to work in an inclusive and integrative manner. Furthermore, over time it has to develop major areas which require special focus. I am sure it will find ways and means of networking not only with the local Chambers of Commerce and Industry of both sides, but also with various trade and industry related bodies, government departments and civil society organizations.

The timing of the formation of the ITTCIC is very important. The body has come into existence at a time when exchanges between India and Trinidad and Tobago are at a high. We recently saw the 2nd Trade and Investment Mission from South Asia in Trinidad. Soon we are going to have a sizeable Indian delegation from India for the CHOGM in November. Your views on the timing…
It is true that over the last year, we have seen a sharp rise in trade between our two countries, particularly in India’s exports to T&T. There has been an exponential growth in trade which needs to be sustained. The recent visit of the Trade and Investment Mission from South Asia to T&T and holding of the first India-Caribbean Conclave and B2B meetings in end June were a large success and have spurred follow up in trade and investment links in a large number of areas. These will keep us engaged in the months ahead and will lead to newer areas of collaboration. I understand that there will be several important business persons and entrepreneurs from India attending the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF) in Trinidad as part of CHOGM in November this year. We have advised the Chamber to find ways and means of interacting with the CBF in particular with the Indian participants. I feel setting up of the Chamber now has been appropriate in terms of the growing trade and business opportunities between our two countries and the immense possibilities they hold for the future.

India, traditionally, has been involved in investments in Trinidad and Tobago, since diplomatic ties were established in 1962. The Mittals were among the first to establish their steel plant at Point Lisas. Today, India is the fourth largest investor in this Caribbean twin-island nation. Do you see the ITTCIC playing a catalyst’s role in encouraging more investments into Trinidad from India?
I do see the Chamber playing a catalytic role in encouraging more investments into Trinidad from India. The CBF could be one such opportunity. Though the global recession has affected the T&T economy as others, I am sure with its well-endowed hydro-carbon resources and a well-developed industrial base, particularly in the energy sector, the economy would bounce back and would continue to be a high growth economy. Located at the crossroads in the Caribbean region, Trinidad offers immense possibilities of connectivity with all the three neighbouring regions, namely South, Central and Northern America, apart from the CARICOM market. In that context, the possibilities are enormous and need to be leveraged in good time.

As High Commissioner, you’d of course be very keen to see that a trade delegation from Trinidad and Tobago visits India soon, reciprocating the visit of the 2nd Trade and Investment Mission. What role can the ITTCIC play in catalyzing such a trade visit?
Indeed, I would be keen to see a trade delegation from T&T visit India soon. As a matter of fact, we have urged the Chamber to lead a trade and industry delegation from here to visit India during the India International Trade Fair (IITF), which is the biggest trade and industry event which takes place every year in November. The recent visit of T&T Trade and Industry Minister, Senator Mariano Browne to India in the context of his participation in the WTO Ministerial meeting has, I must say, brought about greater awareness of trade and industry possibilities between our two countries. The T&T Government as well as the private sector could be sensitized to develop them to their fruition in the coming days.

At this stage, would you encourage the ITTCIC to partner other chambers of commerce and industry both within T and T, and in India?
As mentioned earlier, I would certainly like to encourage the Chamber to collaborate with other Chambers in T&T as well as in India, not only Chambers but other trade and industry bodies, export promotion councils, civil society organizations and government departments since these efforts need to be well-coordinated for any meaningful and sustained development of trade and industry between our two countries.

An event that can give a great fillip to relations between the two nations is the holding of a Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Trinidad which in many ways has become the Caribbean’s conference destination. As High Commissioner would you be pursuing an event such as the PBD with the Indian Government?
Holding of a Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) on a smaller scale in Trinidad has already engaged my mind. In fact, I made this suggestion as part of the recommendations of the one-day Seminar on Diaspora in the Caribbean which this Mission had organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA) at the University of West Indies on 16 August this year. This has found a positive resonance from the diaspora in the Caribbean and the matter has since been pursued with MOIA. I understand the Ministry would be positively inclined to hold a mini-PBD some time next year. Of course, I would consult with the T&T Government authorities as well, since the host Government’s participation would be important in the holding of the Conference. Trinidad and Tobago has not only become a conference destination in this part of the world but a vibrant economy producing a diverse range of products and services, a multi-cultural society, an affluent English-speaking population and with extremely good connectivity in the region and beyond, offers the best possible venue in the region to hold a PBD. 


October 2009

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