India-Mauritius relationship needs to be strenghtened


As India celebrates her 66th Independence Anniversary

India has come a long way from where she was in 1947, a country that had just been torn apart by the outgoing colonial power. Unemployment was rife among her sprawling population as was poverty and deprivation. The country was coming out of a chequered and prolonged history of strife and domination that could be traced back to several centuries and famines that had stalked some states from time to time. Yet, she was able to hold it together despite the worst vicissitudes visiting upon her population and her inherent fissiparous tendencies which threatened to disrupt the social fabric. She is recognized today as one of the best performing economies of the world, not only in terms of what she has been able to achieve while ascending the international ladder of recognition but more so in terms of the potential she holds to do even better in time to come.

It was out of the prevailing desperation of India’s colonial administration by the British that many came as indentured labourers and traders to Mauritius as part of an external flow-out of population mainly as from the early 19th Century. Whatever the economic and social conditions migrant Indians faced in Mauritius while it was a British colony and thereafter after we gained our independence, Mauritians of Indian descent have always had an unflinching attachment and affinity towards India and the essential values she stands for. This has caused a lasting socio-economic relationship to be spun out despite the geographical distance created by the separation, in bad times as in good. Leaders of society from across the oceanic divide have oftentimes proclaimed the special ties which bind us together in an evolving world in which it is becoming increasingly difficult for countries to spot genuine friends. The world has been becoming an arena of self-seeking and advancing particular interests to the detriment of moral and ethical values.

Over the past 66 years, Mauritius’ proximity with India, social, cultural, and economic, has gone on increasing. Many came from India to Mauritius from time to time to lift up our drooping spirits when social well-being was at a low and the political outlook was grim in the face of local leaders ever keen to marginalize population of Indian descent by either pushing them down the economic ladder or by exploiting inherent linguistic and provincial fractures to undo them for good. When India made progress on the international front, it struck a chord within us as something worth emulating and keeping up the hope that we could do just as well. When India was beset by a down phase, our hearts sank in sympathy at the plight of those who became the most vulnerable in the circumstances. The good fortunes of India have been a sustaining factor in our own struggle to rise above our lot.

From the simple import of goods and services from India in the beginning to becoming an effective conduit for channelizing significant amounts of investments into India from all over the world thanks to the India-Mauritius Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTA), we have kept consolidating the economic relationship between the two countries. Had we gone a step further to signing up and implementing the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement between the two countries, economic relations would not have stalled at disputations over the misuse of the DTA by a few shrewd tax avoiders hailing from India. Indeed, the wider horizons so opened between the two countries would have abstracted from bureaucratic focus on the abuse by certain individuals of the DTA; policy-makers would have empowered the two countries rather to unfathom larger potential for mutual economic cooperation and looking beyond narrow horizons of tax evasion and the like. This does not mean we should not be helping India to defeat those indulging in malpractices to her detriment. We could do that but also work together at unfolding higher opportunities for both countries. The DTA has highlighted further potential to get the two countries to work in tandem to the benefit of each other.

There is little doubt that, given where India was at the time of her independence and where she stands today in the league of world nations, a lot of ground has been covered that was unthinkable at the time. This is the fruit of the farsightedness of a few Indian political leaders who chose to develop various fields of human endeavour rather than getting stuck up in mutual recriminations of little worth beyond temporarily securing power. Despite the severe handicaps and social constraints standing in the way of social and economic progress, India took up the challenge to operate with democratic institutions.

This has not been quite helpful at all times, especially when tough decisions had to be taken to chart the future unimpeded course of social and economic progress. But India has succeeded to create envy for what she has been able to achieve nevertheless. Even the Western media does not spare the least false step her leaders make today. That’s because she has gradually but assertively enough become a global force to reckon with. Those who claim to be advocates of competition like it the least when it propels to the front stage those they were least expecting to make it up to that level.

In our case, our affection for India has not changed with the circumstances. It has been an abiding belief that India would go on progressing. We may have unwittingly allowed some unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the DTA on occasion but there is nothing that does not tend to take the wrong direction with time. And anything of the sort which takes the undesirable trajectory can be set back on course without repudiating the very basis of mutually beneficial relationships between partners so long a basic dose of understanding is fostered. We in Mauritius feel confident that India will remain a global force among the Emerging Economies and that the enlightened ones among her citizens will keep projecting a vibrant and confident image of the country all across the world, as they have done by rising above the lot in past years. Nothing can beat the inherent potential of a country.

* Published in print edition on 16 August  2013

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