We have heard the Calypso and Chutney, seen the steel pan bands, watched Brian Lara wield the willow, but not necessarily in that order. We have also known that Trinidad and Tobago (TT) has this historical linkage with India, mainly because thousands of Indians chose indentureship under the British, and undertook perilous voyages lasting between three and six months to go to this West Indian nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
But over the last five years, something else has happened to deepen India's knowledge and contact with this very scenic twin-island nation. Over this period, the High Commissioner of TT to India, Pundit Maniedeo Persad, has proven that no matter how small a nation (TT has just over one million people) is and how far it is geographically (TT is 9-1/2 hours behind India) from another, it is possible to develop and strengthen linkages and take them to the next higher level, the lack of direct air flights notwithstanding.
Indeed now, more than ever before, TT is on the radar of every major business chamber in India, large segments of Parliamentarians, state and central Government ministers and officials, and media. Promotional efforts in the past five years have included elaborate functions built around Indian Arrival Day, Diwali, Emancipation Day, food festivals, business events, visits of cricket teams, and movement of business and Parliamentary delegations to India from Trinidad and Tobago.
More recently, in response to a large delegation that visited India and other Asian countries in March 2007, Pundit Persad led a group of 60 registered delegates on a Trade and Investment Mission to his country in June 2008. Members in that delegation came from various walks in business that include general trading, tourism and travel, education including e-talent development, lifestyle, printing and packaging, chemicals and plastics, construction and real estate, retail clothing, farm products, equipment and fertilizers, automotive parts, handicraft items, plastics, herbal cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, clothing and apparels, pulp paper, engineering goods. Delegates from Singapore represented the energy sector and were interested in development of ports and offshore drilling rigs. The top brass of the Federation of Indian Export Organization also joined the Mission.
The historic Mission itself was preceded by a series of promotional activities undertaken by the High Commission that took place in conjunction with the Government of Karnataka, the Karnataka Federation of Chambers and Commerce, Bangalore, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Delhi, The Indo LAC Chamber and other businesses, Chennai, Sports Good Manufacturers, Meerut, Bank of Baroda, Ahmedabad, Indian Industries Association, Lucknow, Department of Industries, Kerala Government, Indian Merchants Chamber, Mumbai, Bharat Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata, businesses and chambers of commerce in Singapore and Bali, Department of Trade, Investment Coordination Board, and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Jakarta, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the National Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka and various businesses in Bangladesh.
The delegates had business meetings in Trinidad and Tobago with e-Teck, ministries of tourism, industry, foreign affairs, various chambers of commerce, the Tobago House of Assembly. Some MoUs were signed, and some more are on the anvil.
As we present some hard statistics about TT in the following pages, it is pertinent to point out that Pundit Persad's tenure has also seen a USD 1.8 billion investment in a steel plant by the Essar Group, the award of a gas block for exploration to the ONGC-Mittal combine, the shooting of the first ever Bollywood movie in TT, the setting up of Bank of Baroda's first ever office in TT, and increase in business travel from India to TT by over 400 per cent. These facts indicate that TT is a place that offers opportunities. And that the possibilities that lie ahead are enormous.