By Orville Williams
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Trade formally welcomed the new High Commissioner of India to Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency, Dr. K.J. Srinivasa, to the island on Tuesday.
Foreign Affairs Minister, E.P. Chet Greene, met with the new high commissioner, who was making his first official visit to the island and discussed several areas of previously existing and new collaboration.
The recent launch of the first-ever Science and Innovation Park was put on the table as the “first area of cooperation”, as Dr. Srinivasa takes his new office.
“We want to venture, like you – into the area of innovation – in greater prominence of science for young people…as we try to encourage our youth in the area of innovation and development,” Greene said.
“Clearly, the world is still in need of some innovations as we try to simplify and maximise our efficiencies. Here in Antigua, our young people have demonstrated the capacity and the interest to be part of a global space in development — and no better country to turn to for technical assistance than a global leader — so we intend to tap into your global leadership in this regard, for support.”
The signing of a travel agreement allowing visa-free entry to holders of diplomatic and official passports between both countries was another important point of discussion. Greene mentioned that while he hoped the allowance would have been made available to all citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, he was grateful nonetheless.
Speaking on the upcoming elections within the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Greene indicated Antigua and Barbuda’s position to the high commissioner, saying: “We have given favourable consideration to your request for support and we will communicate this with you once we have made a final decision.”
Health services, another item on the agenda, was identified by Greene as an “ongoing area of collaboration between both
governments”. He disclosed that the Government is attempting to build out a health platform, which will account for health tourism – an element of national development – with examples such as the cancer treatment center and renal support programme.
One particular issue of concern that Minister Greene mentioned was in relation to Mehul Choksi, the Indian businessman who has been embroiled in a tense extradition saga.
“I’m sure that during your tenure we will be able to work together to resolve that one. Our position from day one has been respect for the rule of law. I’m sure that in your instance, there will be no deviation from that general policy and principle. We are given to the rule of law and whatever the courts rule, we will abide by that.
“We understand the nature of this case – the sensitivity of it is not lost on us but we, again, thank your government for its patience and understanding,” Greene said.
The High Commissioner spoke on the Indian Government’s “I-Tech Programme”, through which they have offered scholarships and slots for short-term courses in India for Antiguans and Barbudans. He noted that, over the past two years, the utilisation has “not been good”, because “all the five slots are vacant”. He called for an improvement in this regard and asked that information on the scholarships be circulated throughout the various government ministries.
Dr. Srinivasa also extended an invitation to Antigua and Barbuda to take part in discussions initiated by India, surrounding the International Solar Alliance – an alliance of more than 122 countries, most of them being sunshine countries which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
Finally, the two dignitaries took a few light moments to speak on the affinity of both countries toward cricket, with the high commissioner shedding some light on those discussions.
“Yesterday, I had a good meeting with the West Indies Cricket Board. During the discussions, we worked upon how to collaborate on the National Cricket Academy in India, how they can help in grooming the budding talents in Antigua and in the West Indies Cricket Board.
“Also, we talked about expediting all the visas – especially if they have issues – because so many islands form the West Indies Cricket board, so I assured them of all the help that I could,” Dr. Srinivasa explained.
Dr. Srinivasa has also held meetings with the Antigua and Barbuda Chamber of Commerce.