Embrace China, but let’s not forget old friend India

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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NOT without reason, the financial news across the world is dominated by what China has done, what it is doing and what it might do.

Here in Jamaica we hear of the major projects financed and built by China whose economic transformation over the last 20 years has been unprecedented in history. Some are already calling this century the "Chinese Century" and acknowledging China as one of the world’s oldest and greatest civilisations. It is a matter of pride for us that citizens of Chinese descent have contributed to Jamaica’s development in every walk of life.

Yet, China’s new-found notoriety has caused us to all but forget India, one of the world’s oldest and greatest civilisations. People of Indian origin have blended into Jamaican society so as to be indistinguishable from those of African and European origin. India is the world’s largest democracy, the second most populous country and a nuclear power.

We as a nation do not adequately appreciate, even now in our 50th year, the contribution of India to Jamaica and the untapped possibilities for trade, investment and technology transfer to be gained from modern-day India.

Indians started arriving in the Caribbean in 1845, shortly after the abolition of slavery. They were recruited as indentured labourers to work on the sugar plantations until as late as World War I. Without this infusion of labour, the sugar industry would not have survived. About one third returned to India at the end of their contracts but the rest settled permanently. Today they are fully and harmoniously integrated into the nation, having relinquished many traditions. Many aspects of Jamaican life owe their origins to India such as curried goat and hemp.

Indian multinational corporations are major global players, for example, Mittal is the largest steel producer in the world and the Reliance Group is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of textiles. More recently, Indian companies have started to acquire global brands such as Jaguar, Land Rover and Tetley Tea, while Indian brands have gone global, for example, the TATA Group. India dominates certain industries and now accounts for 65 per cent of the global market in offshore information technology and 45 per cent of the world market in information technologyenabled services.

Jamaica has not given enough attention to relations with India. This is evidenced by the fact that Jamaica does not have a resident ambassador and embassy in New Delhi, while we retain such in Mexico and Germany. India is destined to be a global power in the coming 20 years. Its economy produces every good and service comparable in quality and less expensive than some of our current suppliers.

Trade between Jamaica and India has remained limited and there is even less investment. Perhaps, if the governments of Jamaica were less preoccupied with borrowing, we have no doubt that we could develop important exchanges with India to garner direct foreign investment and transfers of appropriate technology.

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