Rungsung Masakui | President of India visits Jamaica
Celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations
In what can only be described as a momentous event in the India-Jamaica relations, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, is landing in Jamaica today for a four-day state visit. It is the first-ever visit by an Indian President to Jamaica and comes in the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the two countries. India is also celebrating 75 years of Independence and Jamaica, 60.
President Kovind is accompanied by a high-powered delegation comprising one Cabinet minister, two members of Parliament, and secretary-level officers, along with a media entourage.
He will begin his visit by paying his obeisance to the memorial of the Rt Excellent Marcus Garvey, national hero of Jamaica. He is an inspiration not to Jamaicans alone, but to everyone fighting racism across the world. During his stay, President Kovind will also hold meetings with Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Andrew Holness, when he will be discussing the entire gamut of the multifaceted relationship between the two countries.
Jamaica has always featured prominently in India’s plans to further cement bilateral relations. Two Indian prime ministers, Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, visited Jamaica. Then minister of state for external affairs General V.K. Singh (Retd) came to Jamaica twice, in 2015 and 2017. From the Jamaican side, former PM Edward Seaga visited India in 1983. The more recent visit of the Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, in 2017, gave much-needed momentum to our relations.
The prime ministers of India and Jamaica, Narendra Modi and Andrew Holness, respetively, have also met multiple times in the past few years, including at the United Nations in 2019, where PM Holness was one of the keynote speakers during the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi. Prime Minister Holness had also delivered his remarks at the launch of the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States on the sidelines of COP-26 at Glasgow in November 2021, upon Prime Minister Modi’s invitation.
India and Jamaica have traditionally enjoyed cordial relations based on democratic values, common linkages of history, a parliamentary democratic system, membership of the Commonwealth, use of the English language, and the love of cricket. Being developing countries, they share similar concerns and aspirations for accelerated economic growth, eradication of poverty, and improvement in the quality of life of their people.
India and Jamaica have shared stakes in shaping the emerging architecture of various multilateral institutions to address existing inequities and addressing major contemporary issues related to energy security, food security, climate change, and international terrorism, among others, in the spirit of South-South cooperation. The opening up of the resident diplomatic Mission of Jamaica in India has further strengthened the relationship.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought out the best of our relationship. India thanks the Jamaican Government for taking good care of Indians in Jamaica during the crisis and facilitating their repatriation. For its part, India also chipped in by sharing COVID-19 vaccine doses and medical equipment with Jamaica to help it with containing the COVID crisis.
ECONOMIC COOPERATION POST-COVID-19
The IMF and other international agencies concur that India will be the fastest-growing major economy for the next two years. Jamaica has done well in rebounding economic growth and controlling inflationary pressures.
However, close economic cooperation between India and Jamaica is a sure way to recover faster. Besides traditional areas like trade in goods and services, the Indian delegation will look to enhance cooperation in the knowledge and health sectors. Linking Indian IT companies and technology institutions like Indian institutes of technology and Indian institutes of management with Jamaican counterparts will also be explored.
These will provide Jamaica with an opportunity to upgrade its technical abilities and fully harness its strategic location to become the ‘knowledge highway’ in the region. Similarly, joining hands between Indian medical institutions and Jamaican ones can provide cutting-edge medical technologies at a fraction of the cost. There are also plans to initiate cooperation in the training of diplomatic personnel and cooperation in media, culture, and sports.
Time permitting, the delegation from India will also indulge in sipping Blue Mountain coffee, the best in the world, and tasting spicy jerk seasoning. They would also love to visit the Bob Marley Museum and some of the island’s best beaches.
As we mark 60 years of our diplomatic relations, I am sure that the state visit by the president of India will transform our already strong relationship and will provide the blueprint for the next 60 years. Cheers to India-Jamaica relations. Big up Jamaica!
- Rungsung Masakui is the High Commissioner of India to Jamaica. Send feedback to email@example.com
Ten facts about President of India, Ram Nath Kovind
• Ram Nath Kovind is the 14th and current president of India. He was sworn in as president on July 25, 2017.
• He served as the governor of the eastern Indian state of Bihar and was also been a member of the Rajya Sabha (equivalent of Jamaican Senate) for 12 years.
• President Kovind was born in a mud hut to a poor rural family that belonged to the erstwhile depressed castes. He is the youngest of five brothers and two sisters.
• As a student, he walked for eight kilometres every day to attend school.
• He married Savita Devi in 1974. They have a son and a daughter.
• President Kovind holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce and also a law degree.
• President Kovind passed the Union Public Service Examination to become a civil servant but chose to practise law at the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India.
• As an advocate, he provided pro-bono aid to the needy, women, and the poor. He has also led many movements for the rights of the weaker sections of the society.
• As a parliamentarian, he has focused on education in rural areas by helping build school infrastructure. He has served on the Board of management of Dr B.R Ambedkar University, Lucknow, and on the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta.
• He served as the personal assistant to the fourth prime minister of India, Morarji Desai, in the 1970s.
• He has also represented India at the United Nations (UN) and addressed the UN General Assembly in October 2002.