Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Guyana which was scheduled for December has been called off, sources have confirmed.
Government had disclosed in September that Prime Minister Modi was scheduled to make his first-ever visit to Guyana in early December and would have taken part in the commissioning of the Indian Indentureship Monument in Palmyra on the Corentyne, Berbice, which is a US$150,000 gift to Guyana by the Government of India to symbolise the country’s cultural celebration.
News of the Indian Leader’s visit was first announced back in April by President David Granger while in New Delhi for the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Founding Conference and Solar Summit.
During a bilateral meeting, President Granger and Prime Minister Modi pledged to strengthen the historical ties between the two countries through increased cooperation. In fact, Modi told the Guyanese Leader that India is willing to do whatever it can to support Guyana’s development and pointed out that there are many areas for cooperation, particularly in the sugar and oil sectors, and the two leaders were expected to reviewed the scale of Guyana-India relations and continue discussions during his visit to Guyana.
He was scheduled to attend the 2018 G20 Summit to be held in Argentina on November 31 to December 1 before leaving for Trinidad and Tobago to attend a special CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Heads of Government meeting on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) set for December 3 and 4.
However, this publication was reliably informed that Prime Minister Modi will no longer be making a trip to Guyana, or to the Caribbean as a matter of fact, during his current tour.
“Due to current domestic compulsions, he’s not coming anymore,” a reliable source confirmed to this newspaper on Thursday, while assuring that the visit will be rescheduled.
Over the past weeks, there has been an air of uncertainty of the Indian Prime Minister’s inaugural visit to Guyana. In fact, this publication understands that local non-profit organisations that are involved in sustaining the Indian culture and tradition were being assembled for a possible visit to Trinidad.
With the last high-level State visit of an Indian leader to Guyana being in 2006 when then Vice President of India, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, visited, it was anticipated that the impending trip of Prime Minister Modi would further solidify bilateral relations between the two countries.
The high level visit was expected to cover overall bilateral relations with engagements in areas of politics, commercial, cultural and so on.
More importantly, however, major highlights of the visit would be continued, with ongoing discussions on Guyana’s emerging oil and gas sector as well as its heavily indebted and cash-strapped, and now downsized, sugar industry.
The Indian Government has long indicated its willingness to assist with Guyana’s ailing sugar sector. However, Government is yet to formally take the emerging Asian power-house nation up on its offer.
Guyana and India established Diplomatic ties in 1965 and has since maintained a strong bond on the bilateral and multilateral fronts given the similarities of not only its democracy and colonial background, but also its multiracial and multicultural societies.
Over the years, Guyana has become the beneficiary of several loans and line of credits from the Indian Government towards infrastructure, healthcare and education development, including the cricket stadium, traffic lights in Georgetown and supply of 14 irrigation drainage pumps.
Currently, there are seven projects that the Indian Government is either fully or partially funding in Guyana. Among these are the US$50 million East Bank Demerara-East Coast Demerara bypass road; the US$17.50 million modernisation of the Bartica, West Demerara and Suddie Hospitals; the US$18 million acquisition of a passenger ferry and the setting up an IT Centre of Excellence in Guyana. (Vahnu Manikchand)