A speech delivered by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind in Jamaica, on Tuesday, at the King’s House, embraced 60 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The president expressed his greetings to Jamaican delegates from the diaspora, on his four-day visit to Jamaica with wife Savita Kovind, daughter Swati, Union Minister Pankaj Chowdhary, Lok Sabha MP Rama Devi, Satish Kumar Gautam, and secretaries-level officials. The purpose of his visit is to strengthen ties with the Jamaican diaspora, and encourage their participation in national development.
In his address, President Kovind noted, “Jamaica holds a very special place in India and among our people, as Indians from all walks of life have been coming to this beautiful country and making it their home.” He further indicated that Indians have blended seamlessly into Jamaican society, much like the plants and trees that they brought with them.
The president has urged the Indian diaspora in the Caribbean country to take advantage of the government’s policies, and participate in the country’s growth story. He said that India is on a “transformational path”, and that its quest for “self-reliance” does not mean “isolation”, but rather “creating capabilities that can help the entire humanity”.
“India’s quest for self-reliance does not mean isolation. Rather it seeks to create capabilities that can help the entire humanity in the true spirit of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, which means “The world is one family.” He underlined this amidst the criticism faced by India in some world capitals, for its Atmanirbhar Bharat policy. “(The) Indian economy is rebounding at a fast pace despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are creating new infrastructure to match our fast-paced growth,” he said. The president continued, “We are undertaking efforts to take lead in the areas of the digital economy, new technologies, climate change-related action and developing a knowledge society.”
President Kovind referred to trade and economic cooperation as crucial pillars of friendship between the two nations. “We see our economies complementing each other, not just for trade, but also to transform our economies through the digital revolution,” he pointed out, expressing his view that Jamaica can serve as a ‘knowledge highway’ to cater to the needs of the large economies in the region.
Speaking to the Indian diaspora in Jamaica, President Kovind said that India and the rest of the world have been charmed by Jamaican popular culture. The tunes of Reggae music have captured the hearts of Indian music fans, even though many of the musicians have never visited Jamaica.
The Indian president expressed his desire for young minds from both nations to collaborate in several fields, including Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Jamaican traditional medicine, and Ayurveda. He also suggested that they work together for a climate-smart world and for a prosperous, progressive, and peaceful society, and said that India will always be a willing partner for Jamaica.
President Kovind expressed deep appreciation for the commitment and importance of bilateral relations between the two countries, and said that Jamaica and India are natural partners in many ways. In addition to calling the countries’ embrace with cricket ‘mutual’, he emphasised how generations of cricket fans in India admire Jamaican cricket icons like George Headley, Michael Holding and Chris Gayle. He added that Indians are well aware of Usain Bolt’s greatness, and said that Jamaica’s performance over the other nations in the medal tally at the Olympics is inspiring. In the event of a ranking of nations based on sporting influence, Jamaica would certainly be high on the list.
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In addition to pointing out the crucial importance of ethical market practices and countries adhering to rules-based international order, he emphasised the importance of working together to build strong and vibrant democracies.
With respect to the Indian president’s visit, Jamaican Commerce Minister Aubyn Hill, on Wednesday, said that his country is looking forward to strengthening investment links with India, and that discussions for wheat, fertilisers, and farm equipment imports from India are still underway. The Jamaican minister said, “We are seeking to establish a distributorship for Indian trucks and buses… seeking a commercial and investment relationship to benefit both the countries.” Hill also raised concern over hunger as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. He stated that while wheat imports are now plentiful, there is still uncertainty. Calling India “a friend”, he said that they are opening discussions. “As we come out of (the) pandemic, we are looking at inviting Indian investors and pharmaceutical companies… we are preparing to be a logistic centre for your pharmaceutical companies,” shared Hill.
This is the first visit to Jamaica by an Indian president. India and Jamaica have had friendly ties since they share democratic principles, a common history, a Parliamentary political system, commonwealth membership, and a shared passion for cricket.