Consolidating India-Mauritius Ties

By Krishna Bhardwaj

The President of the Republic of India, Mrs Pratibha Devisingh Patil, was on official visit to Mauritius from Monday 25th to Thursday 28th April. Her appointment to the Office of President is itself the culmination of a long political career spanning over half a century. Such a long term of public service has conferred upon her poise, maturity and confidence, which have not passed unnoticed among her hosts over here.

Even better, they reflect the state of mind of a globally assertive India which has emerged as a world power to reckon with among the concert of great nations. What a jump it has been for India to come to the forefront as a high-class economic performer on a global stage that was heretofore reserved for a privileged few!

The visit proved to be an occasion for further consolidating existing ties between the two countries. It was an occasion to recall how India has unreservedly extended her helping hand in our development process, how Indian leaders from Pandit Jawaharlall Nehru to Smt Indira Gandhi and Shri Atal Beeharee Vajpayee to the current political leaders of India have worked in concert with our political leaders to promote our social and economic development and how visionary political leaders of India having a sense of history have preferred to disregard minor issues in order to pursue higher and longer lasting goals through mutual cooperation rather than confrontation.

From the days of SSR till now, the two countries have consistently acted in solidarity with each other on the international stage. This is most likely to continue because we know that we can count on India’s sincerity towards us, which is in contrast to the self-interested relationships that some other nations have built up with us and, for that matter, with India herself. This kind of intimate relationship between the two nations has given the opportunity to thousands of our younger generation to access the most specialised fields of education in India when other countries were closing their doors on them by various devices. Education on which the Mauritius Labour Party has always put a premium, has opened many doors to us globally that would have been inaccessible to us today. It has proved to be the key to our economic diversification. India has a strong hand in this process. There are several other fields however in which India and Mauritius have been cooperating with each other, national security being one of these, and these were enumerated in the course of the official visit of the President.

The tone and tenor of exchanges in the course of the state visit have confirmed the existing ties are headed for greater collaboration. It should be recalled that most inter-country relationships are not generally of the enduring type. For example, India saw her FDI drop in 2010 over 2009 by one-third but she needs a steady flow of FDI to meet her high investment needs. During 2010, global FDI flows remained flat, i.e., remained at the same level as in the past year so that India saw her investment inflows shrinking compared with other countries. Despite all the odds, Mauritius has, on the other hand, steadily contributed to India’s FDI thanks to a favourable Double Tax Treaty signed in 1983. Despite lobbies threatening to disrupt the operation of the Treaty, India has not put the Treaty at risk.

Moreover, at a time India’s companies are moving out to explore economic opportunities in other countries, Mauritius can place itself in an intermediate position of trust to participate in India’s policy to invest out through the medium of her private sector rather than through the public sector. This needs Indian and Mauritian businessmen to sit around a table and discuss the best way of doing business together, by making the Mauritius business centre an efficient platform for Indian companies moving enduringly towards Africa but also by bringing African (including Mauritian) companies to operate on and in partnership with Indian companies. The process of identification of these opportunities should have begun long ago but it is never too late to give this option a concrete departure.

The visit was an occasion to bring to light many opportunities for our two countries to continue working together for mutual benefit. Existing ties which go deep have been reasserted. It is now for executives to bring the fruits to bear from a historical and committed collaboration on the part of Mauritius that has not swerved by an iota since our independence. India showed only this month that it was up to take on the world by winning the cricket World Cup; this is the platform for looking at things from a winner’s, not a defensive, attitude. The relation between India and Mauritius should take on this kind of dimension in future rather than relying on fault-finding. In that case, both countries will stand to gain by consolidating the existing ties.  

* Published in print edition on 29 April 2011

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