International Relations

international_relation_photo.jpg (9402 bytes) One of the dreams of Ramgoolam was to put Mauritius on the world map as a significant country, despite its small size. SSR was not bothered about the size of the country, nor its remoteness from other countries or its lack of mineral resources. He looked out beyond the horizon and embraced the whole world within his foreign policy.

It was in the field of international relations that Ramgoolam excelled above all. Due to his farsightedness, he had stuck to the non-Aligned bloc and had won the admiration of the African countries, through joining the OCAM,OAU,GATT He rejected ideological affiliations, refusing to be tied to the apron strings of the Eastern or Western blocs during the Cold War years. He had always been guided by the principle of "enlightened national interest" which alone could ensure permanent gains.

He consolidated the sovereignty of the country through patient diplomacy, maintaining equidistance from rival powers and steadfastly pursuing the goal of peace. SSR formulated a policy which ended our geographical insularity and which put Mauritius at the centre of the Indian Ocean and African region.

A man of peace, brought up on Gandhian philosophy and oriental humanism and spirituality blended with western pragmatism, he emerged as a respected elder statesman.

He refused to allow the country to be used as a naval base by any western country, nor did he feel the need to spend unnecessarily on military or naval armaments.

His joining the EEC must be seen not just as a hazard but clearly as part of his comprehensive policy of promoting the enlightened interest of his country. Under his guidance, Mauritius joined the Yaounde Convention as an associate member of EEC in June 13,1973 and which was to guarantee the country with duty free and quota free access to EEC markets and the export of 500,000 tons of sugar.

Ramgoolam realised that the country needed foreign aid and foreign investment if it was to create job opportunities since domestic resources hardly sufficed for plan implementation.

reagan_photo.jpg (11339 bytes) In this perspective, Ramgoolam started an open-door policy which signified making friends with all and being an enemy to none. He has linked Mauritius with all the continents, not in the physical sense but within a broader diplomatic context. Thus, he established good relations with UK, France, USA, India, China, Soviet Union and visited all of these countries.

He held talks with president de Gaule, and president Pompidou of France, talked to the French writers, met American presidents Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan, Willy Brandt of Germany, Mrs Golda Meir of Israel. He was a close friend of Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister, and India has been a constant friend of Mauritius.

This has meant opening Mauritius to the frontiers of many countries from various perspectives: educational, business, economic, tourist and cultural exchanges. Surrounded by a ring of friendly countries in a world which is growing smaller, Mauritius is poised to play a leading role in the Indian Ocean and the African region as well as in world politics. This, indeed, is Ramgoolam's legacy in the field of international relations.

By Anand Mulloo 15.9.98