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India tries to strengthen relations with the Caribbean

FLASH BACK: President David Granger and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi meeting in New York.

Reproduced from Near Shore Americas

India is looking to woo the Caribbean market with the opening of IT centers and investment in vocational training initiatives.

India has begun courting Caribbean states to expand trade although the Asian country’s current trade volume with the Caribbean stands at mere US$1 billion. On his recent visit to the United Nations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held separate meetings with chiefs of several Caribbean countries, including Guyana, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenada.

While China can use its dollar reserves to please Caribbean countries, India is heavily dependent on its Diaspora to expand business. Indian descendents are in large numbers in Caribbean countries, particularly in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

Indian IT company Genpact was in fact incorporated in Bermuda. Therefore, India is gearing up to use its vast resources in the technology sector to develop closer relationship with the region. The Asian country has already begun offering technology training and skill development programs in some of the Caribbean countries.

According to dayafterindia.com, India is setting up IT centers in Guyana, and vocational training institutes in Jamaica and Belize. The University of West Indies in Port of Spain has three chairs for Indian studies. Under the Technical and Economic Cooperation program, India is already providing scholarship for nearly 200 Caribbean students.

Despite the presence of a high number of Indian settlers, Indian companies never found it easy to do business in the Caribbean. Several of their projects have reportedly hit roadblocks. Essar’s steel plant in Guyana, Reliance’s bitumen refinery and a joint ONGC-Mittal gas project in Trinidad are to name a few.

Some reports say that Indian government is talking with their Caribbean counterparts not for expanding trade but for getting support for its attempt to gain a seat in the UN Security Council.

In the meantime, India’s trade volume with other parts of LAC region is growing.
The trade volume expanded from US$ 5.2 billion in 2005 to US$ 49.1 billion in 2014. The country’s exports went up from US$ 2.8 billion to US$ 15.5 billion, a jump of more than five times, while imports from the region increased by 14 times to US$ 33.6 billion.

Brazil and Mexico have long been India’s largest export markets in the region, and the Asian country is importing a large amount of oil from Venezuela.