Trinidad and Tobago and India have much to celebrate in this Golden Jubilee year
of our relations. We are vastly different in our physical size, but this does
not matter because it is the common aspirations of our people, the dream of a
better world for all, the mutual respect for each other’s history, religion,
culture, social customs and our respective independence as nations that unite
The foundation for this unity was laid in the 50’s by Dr Eric Williams, first
Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime
Minister of India, who were united in their struggles for the freedom of their
respective countries. They were both at Oxford and both shared the same vision
for independence, and were part of the Nationalist movement at that time. As a
historian, Williams admired Nehru’s glimpses of world history that placed the
history of India in its true perspective.
Dr Williams also admired Tagore for his poetry and the impact he had on the
nationalist movement. The influence which Tagore had on him was evident in the
lecture which he delivered on Tagore at the Queen’s Hall in Port of Spain on the
6th of May 1961, at the invitation of the Indian High Commission.
Gandhi had an even greater impact on Dr Williams and even influenced his work in
laying the foundation for the independence of Trinidad and Tobago. Dr Williams
delivered a lecture on Gandhi in October 1959 and said that the traditions
against which he fought in South Africa were in some respects very similar to
those which existed in Trinidad at the time. He ended his lecture by
highlighting Gandhi’s method of passive resistance and the highly spiritual
quality of his life. Dr Williams thought that to acquaint ourselves to Gandhi’s
life to whatever degree, can only lead to the enrichment of our own.
Trinidad and Tobago national I.J. Bahadursingh also played a significant role in
laying the foundation for long and cherished relations between Trinidad and
Tobago and India. He studied at Oxford University with Nehru and developed a
strong bond with him. I.J. joined the Oxford Majlis Society through which he
became immersed in India’s struggle for Independence.
Pandit Nehru encouraged Bahadursingh to come to India in the service of his
ancestral home. He did return, and not only was he involved in India’s struggle
for independence, but also served in the post of Chief of Protocol and
Ambassador to several countries. Bahadursingh, the freedom fighter also became
involved in the Independence struggle in Africa, where he was honoured with an
Honorary Kikuyu Chiefdom.