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India funds WC cricket stadium

Vice president Shekhawat will dedicate the stadium, built with the help from Indian Govt, reports Shekhar Iyer.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2006 15:46 IST

Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat flew into the "Garden City of the Caribbean" situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast well past midnight early on Tuesday.

It took ten long hours from London on a jumbo jet and another hour by a smaller aircraft from Port of Spain (Trinidad) to reach Guyana's largest city on the Atlantic coast.

But his weariness gave way to cheer as his motorcade made way from the airport along the east bank of the Demerara river. A bunch of people stopped his car, waving the Indian national tri-colour near a cricket stadium that is to be ready for the Cricket World Cup early next year.

That a crowd should gather at that nightly hour to greet a visiting dignitary was understandable. Guyanese love cricket. And Shekhawat will dedicate the stadium on Wednesday, built with a credit facility extended by the Indian government, together with significant grant capital.

The cricket stadium represents one of the major projects ever undertaken as part of India's bilateral assistance to this country, which has members of the large Indian diaspora as its president, prime minister and the Speaker.

The list of prominent cricketers who have played for Guyana as part of the West Indies team include Basil Butcher, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Colin Croft, Roy Fredericks, Lance Gibbs, Carl Hooper, Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Guyana shares with India strong historical ties with a large section of the population able to trace their ancestry back to India from where indentured immigrants came to work on the sugar plantation beginning in 1838.

Guyana is second country after Mauritius that has political leadership drawn from the Indian diaspora. Cheddi Jagan who won independence for Guyana from Britain was the son of Indian plantation worker.

Though located on the South American continent and sharing borders with Venezuela and Brazil, Guyana belongs to the Caribbean world.

Officials say the stadium symbolises India's attempt to reach out to the Carribeans, consisting of 15 countries, which have formed a group to get their pie of economic prosperity.

R Vishwanathan, joint secretary (Latin America) in the MEA, said Guyana holds big promise for Indian businesses, particularly in the areas like forestry, and bauxite mining as the Caribbean world emerges as a major market. China is already very active in the region.

In the course of his three-day visit, the Indian Vice-President will witness signing of an agreement for a $2.1 million concessional line of credit for installing solar-powered traffic lights in Georgetown.

Indian High Commissioner AC Gupta said the project was conceived about 10 months ago when an Indian company visited Guyana and gave a proposal for the installation of solar-powered traffic lights, which can also work under the normal electricity grid.

The non-functioning traffic lights in Georgetown has been a sore issue for several years and almost two years ago, on November 29, 2004, the then Home Affairs Minister Gail Teixeira had promised that efforts were being made by her ministry to "have this situation corrected in the not too distant future".

Interestingly, Guyana and neigbouring Suriname are the only two remaining countries in the mainland Americas that still drive on the left.

Shekhawat will inaugurate a research facility named after Rabrindranath Tagore at the University of Guyana. In recent years, India has increased its assistance to building Guyana's human resource capacity by providing an increased number of scholarships in a wide variety of academic disciplines.

This has allowed many Guyanese students to benefit from both short term and extended scholarships in that country, according to Primrose Sharma, another joint secretary in the MEA who handles the region.