India focuses on CARICOM; President Kovind travels to Jamaica and SVG

President Ram Nath Kovind will be on his way to the Caribbean nations of Jamaica and St. Louis. Vincent and the Grenadines from Sunday (May 15, 2022). The announcement of President Kovind’s seven-day visit will, according to the State Department, start from Jamaica and then to St. Louis. Vincent and the Grenadines. Adds that this will be the first visit ever by an Indian head of state in these countries.

India and Jamaica

This year, the two countries are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, India and Jamaica. Another significance is that this is the 176th anniversary of the arrival of the Indians in Jamaica.

The visit starts from Jamaica from 15.-18. May, and his agenda includes delegation-level talks with his counterpart, Jamaica’s Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen. In addition to talking about the joint meeting of the two houses of the Jamaican Parliament, during his visit he will meet with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and other senior figures.

According to Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some MoUs during the visit are expected to be put together with Jamaica, the largest English-speaking island nation in the Caribbean. He will also hand over cricket sets to the young cricketers to the Jamaican Cricket Association.

On the agenda for the president’s engagement in Jamaica is the naming of a path after Dr. BR Ambedkar in the capital Kingston, which marks 60 years of diplomatic relations, where he inaugurates the India-Jamaica Friendship Garden, where he will plant sandalwood and later interact with a cross-section of Jamaican society.

The Caribbean nation is one of the Girmitya countries with a 70,000 strong Indian diaspora which acts as a living bridge with India.

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG)

From Jamaica, President Kovind will pay a state visit to St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) starting on 18-21. May. Discussions with his fellow Governor-General Susan Dougan and meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and other top officials and later speech in SVG’s Assembly House. And will rename a road to India Drive and hand over cricket sets.

The significance of the visit to these small island countries, which form CARICOM

Never has an Indian head of state visited these countries before and it is a welcome step from India. While the Caribbean nations have a long and ancient connection with India due to a connection through the diaspora, it is also a step towards a greater connection with the CARICOM nations. Traditionally, the Caribbean is usually neglected by most nations due to their limited geographical extent as well as their limited economic footprint. The cornerstone of the economy of smaller Caribbean islands has been tourism, but as more and more Caribbean countries discover crude oil and natural gas; they are on the brink of an economic boom and a possible environmental disaster.

Jamaica is one of the major Caribbean nations and also part of the Girmitiya countries. It is home to about 70,000 people of Indian descent who are now in their third or fourth generation; however, their cultural and linguistic connection with India remains unbroken.

The policies of most Caribbean nations, which were settled by colonies of contract workers from India and slaves from Africa, who were carried there by their former colonial masters; are about people who vote on the basis of their ethnicity. As Indian society consolidated in the region, its political capital also grew, and in such a time it would be wise for India and the Caribbean to work together.

India also allows the Caribbean for niche security solutions. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana are nations with high crime rates. Jamaica also faces the problem of drug terrorism, India can provide these nations with weapons, training, tactical support as well as joint exercises for the defense forces.

Which countries form CARICOM?

Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Suriname, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago form the CARICOM group.

And among these are many countries along with India, which are part of the Commonwealth and support each other in multilateral fora.

The first ever India-CARICOM foreign ministerial meeting was held in 2015 and 2017, respectively, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City.

Relations between India and CARICOM got a big boost when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with leaders from 14 member states on the sidelines of UNGA in 2019.

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