Imran Khan misunderstood purpose of PIO meeting

Dear Editor,

I refer to the news item captioned ‘Indian High Commissioner criticises DPI over misleading Facebook post’ (SN, Jan 12). The Director of Public Information (DPI) Imran Khan appears to have misunderstood the purpose and objective of the New Delhi meeting of PIO (People of Indian Origin) parliamentarians (MPs). Had he understood the rationale behind the parley of PIO legislators, he would not have made absurd allegations. I believe it was a case of him not being properly informed or briefed about the meeting.

I wrote about the PIO MPs gathering last week, but unfortunately, my commentary (which was sent to SN) was not carried in the Guyana media though it was carried in the international press. My posting explained the aim, objective and theme of the conference and who were invited. I also wrote on the proceedings (on how Guyana and the Caribbean will benefit) of the actual conference that was carried in the international media but not in Guyana.

Just to clarify as High Commissioner Mahalingam explained, it was a gathering of legislators of Indian descent. The Government of India covered all the costs. Ministers or Speakers were not invited. I was informed by friends in New Delhi that all MPs and Mayors were invited whether they belonged to government, opposition or were not affiliated with any party from around the globe. There are some 280 parliamentarians of Indian descent globally. Indeed, there were government MPs, Independents, and Opposition MPs at the parley from around the globe; altogether some 141 accepted and attended the event. Only one PIO MP in Guyana is not a Minister and he was invited and attended. Mayors of government-controlled entities also attended.

There were two separate but related conferences on the 9th and 10th. The first day was hosted by the Government of India and the other was hosted by an NGO, Antar Rashtriya Sahyog Parishad Bharat (ARSP). The Prime Minister, Vice President, Minister of External Affairs, and two Junior Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the line Minister responsible for PIOs, and others including the deputy Speakers of both Houses of Parliament all spoke. The focus was on building relations between India and the countries where the PIO MPs are domiciled. The theme was on the role the MPs could play for mutual development. The parley allowed the MPs to connect with their past in India and to build parliamentary relationships. There was no hidden agenda and no plan to interfere in any country’s internal affairs. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the gathering, India never invaded another country, but has helped other countries. There was an interactive session among the MPs and with MPs from the Indian Parliament.

The theme in the second day conference was on building bridges of friendship and how cultural, economic and business linkages could be developed between the people of India and the diaspora. The President Ram Nath Kovind was the keynote Speaker. Others also spoke. Parliamentarians interacted in with each other in two sessions. The MPs I spoke with said they were very productive conferences and hope they would be annual. There was no politicking, meaning interference in Guyana affairs. The High Commissioner in Guyana was simply doing his job of tendering invitations as instructed from Delhi. He was not seeking to influence or intervene in Guyana domestic affairs. It was simply a PIO event for non-Ministers and a very productive and useful one.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram


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