• 07 Feb, 2023

Assessing Ali's India Trip

Assessing Ali's India Trip

Assessing Ali's India Trip

It was the most impressive and productive trip of a Guyanese head of government to India -- as per my assessment. The President deserves accolades for his accomplishment during this short stint as head of government in India. And he was well received.  It is probably one of the most productive visits (in terms of achievements) of any head of government (state) to India by Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali He visited so many cities and engaged so many people (government officials and businesspersons) and accomplished so much in this trip in terms of signed agreements. No other world leader was able to pull off such a feat. (Credit goes to Indian High Commissioner Dr. KJ Srinivasa who pulled all stops to facilitate the President’s compact program that included honor, celebration, business, and visits to historic places).  
 
It was not an easy trip for the President with available counsel or expertise (of any Guyanese) on India. Absent a Guyana High Commissioner in India made it difficult and challenging for the President. But he, himself, is sort of an expert on India’s society and politics given his long stay in the capital as a student during the early 2000s. (He spoke about his student days) He excelled, handling himself well with assistance from High Commissioner Dr. KJ Srinivasa, meeting highest officials  in government, head of state, MEA and other Ministers, Governors and Chief Ministers of States, captains of industry, engineers, and educators.
 
I have been a student of contemporary Indian politics ever since in high school in the 1970s in Guyana. Indian politics and history was also among my minors in college. I read voluminously on India – books and major newspapers and magazines on a regular basis going back to 1977 when I first entered college. In my countless visits to India and in all of my readings and studies of foreign heads of government (state) visiting India, I would rate the Ali’s trip as the most productive of all time in terms of agreements signed, places visited, officials engaged, and the reception he received. He has accomplished more for Guyana, at least on paper, than his predecessors who went on official visits – Dr. Jagan, Bharrat Jagdeo, Donald Ramotar, and David Granger. I was there for some of these Presidential visits going back to the 1990s, present at some of Ali’s events, and religiously read Indian media daily. Ali received more media attention (coverage), all positive, than all his predecessors combined. He excelled in his interviews.  
 
Everyday, there was a flurry of stories in the written press as well as TV coverage. The President grabbed a lot of media attention, including TV interviews, much more than President Santokie of Surinam who held separate meetings (bilateral greetings) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Droupadi Murmu, and Foreign Minister (MEA) Dr. S Jaishankar. Santokie and Ali were together at PBD events and Madya Pradesh Investment Summit where they were accorded red carpet welcome by the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. (Probably not aware of the history, Chouhan never mentioned that MP has historic connection with Surinam and Guyana; indentured laborers from MP went to both colonies).  After PBD, the two President ventured on their own to woo investment to Guyana.  
 
The President was honored everywhere by his hosts in Delhi, Indore, Agra, Kanpur, Mumbai, and Bangalore – garlanded, ‘shawled’, and presented with bouquet of flowers. He responded appropriately with the traditional ‘namaste’ which he would have learned growing up in Guyana and during his stay in India as a foreign student on scholarship.  
He had knowledge of the society and used appropriate language in conversing with his hosts. He repeatedly referred to the PM as Shri Narendra Modi-ji (Pradhan Mantri -- PM).  
 
At all times, Ali was well attired and appropriately in traditional Indian outfit which is also the outfit of his ancestors, the pioneering indentured laborers and his hosts. He even dressed with the popular traditional ‘Modi wear’ at one function.  
Ali had professional and productive exchanges and was very successful with several signed agreements. In his speeches, he came across as smart and knowledgeable about the issues. At PBD, he read from a prepared speech with some deviations to pay tribute to Modi and the government. At all other times, he spoke extemporaneously, perhaps with some prepared points.  
His speech at the PBD was among his best I heard. It was well received and praised by everyone (100% ratings) who listened to or read remarks in the press.  Throughout the speech, Modi steadily acknowledged some of Ali’s remarks with a namaste as a gesture of appreciation or agreement. It was one of the finest speeches I heard by a Chief Guest at PBD (and I was at almost all) and it was relevant (on point) to Guyana, the diaspora, and the Caribbean. He praised India for its Covid 19 vaccine policy (Vaccine Maitri) that saved lives not only in Guyana but globally. No nation was as generous as India in making vaccines available to the world. He made a pitch for investment in and transfer of technology to Guyana. And with assistance from Ambassador Srinivasa, the President successfully tackled a bewildering variety of issues -- economic developmental, energy, education, funding or loans, agriculture, security, transfer of technology, among others.
 
President Ali has earned high grades in assessing his overall presence in India. He deserves laurels in this foreign trip which augurs well for India-Guyana relations. If agreements are transferred into action, Guyana will grow exponentially.

Dr Vishnu Bisram

Dr. Vishnu Bisram is Guyanese born who received his primary and secondary education in Guyana and tertiary education in the US and India. He is a holder of multiple degrees in the natural sciences, social sciences, and education. He taught for over forty years in the US. He is a specialist on the Indian diaspora traveling globally to research and write about Indian communities.