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Transcript of Special Briefing by Secretary (East) on President’s visit to Jamaica & St. Vincent and the Grenadines (May 13, 2022)

May 13, 2022

Shri Rajesh Uike, Director (XPD): Good afternoon, everyone. I welcome you all to the special media briefing on the Honourable Rashtrapati Ji’s forthcoming visit to Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And for that I have pleasure to introduce to you sitting here on dais with me Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Ms. Gloria Gangte, Joint Secretary, Latin America and Caribbean division of MEA and Ms. Kirti Tiwari, who is Deputy Press Secretary to the President. Sir, now I would like to invite you for briefing about the visit.

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): So as you all know, the Honourable President Shri Ramnath Kovind, will pay a State visit to Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines from 15th to 21st of May 2022. This would be the first visit by the Head of State of India to these two countries, and reflective of our commitment to small island developing states and to the CARICOM, which is the Caribbean community, of which both these countries are members. The President would be accompanied by Smt. Kovind, Minister of State of Finance, Shri Pankaj Chaudhary and members of parliament Shri Satish Kumar Gautam and Smt. Rama Devi.

I would just divide my presentation into three parts. The Jamaica leg, the St Vincent and the Grenadines leg and then say a few things about the significance of the visit. So, visit to Jamaica will be from 15th to 18th of May 2022. The visito is of historical significance because it is happening at an important milestone in the history of both countries. This year is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Jamaica. India and Jamaica are also celebrating 75th and 60th Anniversary of their Independence respectively. Jamaica as you know is Girmitya country with around 70,000 strong Indian diaspora. This year also marks the 176th Anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Jamaica.

During the course of his visit, the President will hold discussions with the Governor General of Jamaica Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Andrew Holness. He will deliver an address at the joint sitting of Parliament and participate in a community reception. The Governor General and her spouse will host a banquet in honour of the President and Smt. Kovind. The Leader of the Opposition Honourable Mark Golding will call on the President and a road in the capital city of Kingston will be named after Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, to mark the 60th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. The President would inaugurate the India Jamaica friendship garden by planting a sandalwood sapling there. He would interact with a wide cross section of the Jamaican society and as a mark of our common love for cricket he would hand over cricket kits for aspiring young cricketers to the President of the Jamaican Cricket Association. The President would also pay respect to the memorial of Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican born nationalist and leader of Pan African movement. Some MOUs are also expected to be signed during the visit.India enjoys cordial and friendly relations with Jamaica, which is the largest English speaking island country in the Caribbean. The bilateral relationship is based on common linkages of history, parliamentary democracy, membership of the Commonwealth and love of cricket. Prime Minister Andrew Holness shares a personal rapport with Prime Minister Modi, with whom he has met five times on the side-lines of multilateral events.

Let me move on to St. Vincent and Grenadines, I'll call it SVG in short form. The President would visit SVG from 18th to 21st of May. He will have meetings with Governor General, Her Excellency Susan Dougan and Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. The President would also address the Parliament, the Governor General would host a banquet and Prime Minister a working lunch and reception in honour of the President and Smt. Kovind. Some agreements are also expected to be signed during the visit. The President would preside over a function renaming of Calder road to India drive in SVG, and will here also plant a sandalwood sapling at the botanical garden out there. He would also visit some development projects undertaken by us and interact with a cross section of the local society as well as members of the Indian community.

President would also, as he did in Jamaica, handover cricket kits to aspiring Indian cricketers under the framework of Cricket Association of SVG. India and SVG, have cordial and friendly ties. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonzalez visited India in 2019, at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi and the two Prime Ministers have also met twice in New York, on the side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly. SVG is a small country with a population of 1.1 lakh. India has provided SVG, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance during hurricanes and flash floods in the past. We have also undertaken small community projects in that country. SVG has 7,700 approximately People of Indian Origin who are well integrated into the SVG society. SVG was one of the smallest countries to have been a member of the United Nations Security Council during the period 2020 and 2021. And we collaborated with it closely in the context of our own membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2021 and 2022.

This first ever visit from India to Jamaica and SVG highlights our commitment to development partnership and sharing of experience, knowledge and skills with small island developing states. India continues to contribute to capacity building in these countries through ITEC courses and ICCR scholarships. India has cooperated with both Jamaica and SVG, in the multilateral fora, where they have consistently supported our candidature and positions. The visit also underlines the importance we attach to our relations with the Caribbean community. You would recall that the first India-CARICOM Summit was held in New York in 2019, in which Prime Minister Modi had met all the leaders of the CARICOM. The President's visit is a continuation of this engagement with CARICOM. Also during the COVID 19 pandemic, India had donated medicines and medical supplies as well as Made in India vaccines to countries of the CARICOM, including to Jamaica and SVG, which had resulted in a lot of goodwill. And both these countries were able to start the vaccination on the basis of vaccines received from India. Climate change and sustainability, are other areas where there is strong convergence between India and the countries of the Caribbean. This is an area of great priority to small island nations, which are vulnerable to extreme weather events. Both Jamaica and SVG have joined our global initiative in the area of renewable energy viz the International Solar Alliance. On the invitation of Prime Minister Modi Jamaican Prime Minister Holness was one of the speakers at the launch of the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States on the side-lines of CoP 26 at Glasgow in November 2021. So, this is what I had to say.

Shri Rajesh Uike, Director (XPD): Thank you sir. Now sir, we may take few questions if you permit. So I invite you for questions, before asking question please introduce yourself. And also I will request you to limit yourself to the subject matter only for asking the question

Sidhant: Hi sir. Sidhant from WION. Cricket kits specifically, I mean, why cricket kits in terms of giving to both countries, first question. Second question, on the candidature of the Secretary General of Commonwealth, what's India's viewpoint? Will India back the Jamaican Foreign Minister?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Well, these are both countries which are part of what is commonly known as West Indies. There is love for cricket and this was a request which was made in the interaction which our head of missions had out there and we will be very happy, given the love for cricket both there as well as out here, to give them these cricket kits. As far as the candidature of the Jamaican Foreign Minister is concerned, I would confine myself to what External Affairs Minister had mentioned in his tweet post conversation with the Jamaican Foreign Minister a few days ago that her candidature, her experience and vision would add to the Commonwealth.

Brahm Prakash Dubey: Sir, Brahm Prakash Dubey from Zee News. Just want some clarity ye kisi Indian President ki Pehli 1st Yatra Hai? (Questioned in Hindi; Approximate Translation) Sir Brahma Prakash Dubey from Zee News, just want some clarity, Is this the first visit of an Indian President?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Jaisa maine aapako bataaya ye Head of State Raashtrapati level pe India se pehli yatra hai in donon deshon mein aur issiliye ye aham mahatv rakhatee hai. (Answered in Hindi; Approximate Translation) As I told you this is the first visit from India at the Head of State level to both these countries and hence it is of vital importance.

Speaker 1: Sir, there'll be any MOU signed on the terms of like you know, financial support or any further development projects?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Yeah, there is a likelihood of an Memorandum of understanding being signed as far as developmental cooperation is concerned and there is a likelihood of some other agreements also.

Sridhar: Sridhar from the Asian Age. I just wanted some clarity on this road or this street that you said it was in Kingston, it's going to be named after Dr. Ambedkar?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): That's right.

Sridhar: Can you give us some details about this and secondly this joint sitting of Parliament when is it scheduled?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East):
The joint sitting is on the 16th and we will just check and give you the date. So, nothing too much to add as far as the renaming of the road is concerned. I think it is a mark of the goodwill which they have. They wanted to name one of the roads after one of the Indian personalities and Dr. Ambedkar’s name came up in that particular context.

Shri Rajesh Uike, Director (XPD): Sir with your permission now I conclude the special media briefing on Rashtrapati Ji’s visit to Jamaica and St. Vincent and Grenadines. I will request you to follow our website and social media platform for further updates on the visit. Thank you very much.

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