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India focuses on CARICOM; President Kovind leaves for Jamaica and SVG

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Besides addressing the Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Jamaican Parliament, during his visit he will be meeting with Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and other dignitaries.

President Ram Nath Kovind will be heading to the Caribbean nations of Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines starting Sunday (May 15, 2022). Announcing the seven day visit of President Kovind , according to the Ministry of External Affairs, will start from Jamaica and then to St Vincent & Grenadines. Adding that this will be the first-ever visit by an Indian Head of State to these countries.

India & 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 Indians in Jamaica.

The visit starts from Jamaica from May 15-18 and his agenda includes talks at delegation level with his counterpart, the Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen. Besides addressing the Joint Sitting of the two Houses of Jamaican Parliament, during his visit he will be meeting with Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and other dignitaries.

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According to Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, during the visit, some MoUs are expected to be inked with Jamaica, the largest English speaking island country in the Caribbean. He will also hand over cricket kits for the young cricketers to the Jamaican Cricket Association.

On the agenda of the President’s engagement in Jamaica is naming of a road after Dr BR Ambedkar in the capital city of Kingston marking 60 years of diplomatic relations, inaugurating India-Jamaica Friendship garden where he will plant sandalwood sapling and later interact with a cross-section of the 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 & Grenadines (SVG)

From Jamaica, President Kovind will pay a state visit to St Vincent & Grenadines (SVG) starting May 18-21. Discussions with his counterpart Governor-General Ms Susan Dougan and meet Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves and other top officials and later address the House of Assembly of SVG. And will rename a road as India Drive and hand over cricket kits.

Importance 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 move by India. While the Caribbean nations have a long and old connection with India due to a connection through Diaspora, it is also a step towards a greater connection with the CARICOM nations. Traditionally the Caribbean usually gets neglected by most nations due to their limited geographical extent as well as their restricted economic footprint. The mainstay of the economy for smaller Caribbean islands has been tourism, however as more and more Caribbean countries are discovering crude oil and natural gas; they stand on a precipice of an economic boom and a possible environmental disaster.

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

The politics of most Caribbean nations that were settled by colonies of indentured labourers from India and slaves from Africa who were carried there by their former colonial masters; revolves around people voting on the basis of their ethnicity. As the Indian community consolidated itself in the region, its political capital was also increasing and in such a time, it would be prudent for India and the Caribbean to work together.

India also provides the Caribbean with an opportunity for niche security solutions. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana are nations with high rates of crime. Jamaica also faces the problem of Narco-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 CARICOM group.

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

The first ever India – CARICOM Ministerial at the level of Foreign Ministers were held in 2015 and 2017 respectively on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City.

The relations between India and CARICOM received a major boost when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with leaders of 14 member countries on the sidelines of UNGA in 2019.

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