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Guyana stadium to raise India's stature

The new cricket stadium, a matter of pride for the Guyanese reaffirms India's role in Guyana's development.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2006 12:55 IST

A cricket stadium is just a cricket stadium. But the new one that was dedicated by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat to the people of Guyana has caught public imagination in Guyana.

It is about India scoring a point over China in the minds of the people. And it has opened the doors for Indian investment in a country with huge natural resources.

The Providence Cricket Stadium near Georgetown is a matter of pride for all Guyanese and not just cricket fans. The impressive 15,000-seat facility is poised to host as many as six matches during the cricket World Cup next year.

But as Shekhawat said during the dedication ceremony speech last week: "The stadium is an example of south-south cooperation to which India has a historic commitment."

The stadium has been built with a $6 million grant and a concessional line of credit of $19 million from India. A Mumbai-based firm undertook the construction.

"There cannot be a more splendid symbol of friendship between Guyana and India than this magnificent edifice," Guayana President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is of Indian origin, said at the dedication ceremony.

The stadium is latest in the series of India's initiatives to aid economic development of Guyana, a country the World Bank calls HIPC or Highly Indebted Poor Country.

Situated on the northeastern coast of South America, Guyana is heavily dependent on foreign aid. It gives top priority to bilateral ties with three countries: Brazil, China and India.

Of late, the general public here has been quite appreciative of China's role in its development.

Beijing has signed a series of agreements on economic,scientific and technical cooperation with Guyana. It has also provided it with a preferential discount interest loan. And the most important symbol of China's active role in Guyana's development is a hydroelectric project that it helped set up in a place called Moco Moco.

All this had somehow overshadowed India's presence in terms of a partner in progress in Guyana.

But the new stadium has again brought into focus India's role in the development of Guyana. Apart from this, India has undertaken the work of installation of traffic lights throughout the capital city of Georgetown, something that has gone down very well with the Guyanese public.

"People have been talking about China all this while, but now India has again captured the imagination of the public," a journalist of Indian origin said.

In 2003, India agreed to waive the balance of Rs 28.78 million owed by Guyana against the first credit line of Rs 100 million extended in 1989. It had also extended a line of credit in 2003 through the EXIM Bank of India to modernise three sugar plants.

In 1996-97 and again in 1999, India supplied Guyana medicines as disaster relief. And in 2005 it donated medicines and pharmaceuticals worth $100,000 for flood relief.

Guyana offers Indian entrepreneurs investment opportunities in gold, diamond and bauxite mining, besides forestry.

And now it is seeking India's help in other sectors too. President Jagdeo made an impassioned plea during Shekhawat's visit this month for New Delhi's assistance in the IT sector.

"I request India to help us in IT so that we are catapulted into closing the digital divide between the developed and developing world," he said.