The President of the Republic of India, His Excellency Mr Ram Nath Kovind, visited Jamaica from 15th to 18th May 2022. The President was accompanied by Minister of State (Finance) Mr Pankaj Chowdhary, Members of Parliament Mr Satish Kumar Gautam and Ms Rama Devi, as well as other senior officials of the Government of India.
The President was received on his arrival by His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GMCG, CD, KSt.J, Governor-General of Jamaica; The Most Honourable Andrew Holness, ON, PC, MP, Prime Minister of Jamaica; and Ms Lisa Hanna, Opposition Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, representing Mr Mark Golding, Leader of the Opposition; Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, as well as other senior officials of the Government of Jamaica. He was accorded a 21 Gun Salute and he inspected the Guard of Honour.
The State Visit of the President is the first-ever by a Head of State from India to Jamaica. It is of great historical significance as it commemorates the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries. 2022 is also the year when India and Jamaica celebrate milestones in democracy, viz., the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence and the 60th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.
India and Jamaica enjoy cordial and friendly relations based on common historical and cultural linkages, parliamentary democracy and membership in the Commonwealth and other international bodies.
During the visit, the President held discussions with the Governor-General at King’s House. He also met with the Prime Minister and was paid a courtesy call by the Leader of the Opposition. The Governor-General hosted a State Dinner in honour of the President and his accompanying delegation.
The President also addressed a Special Sitting of the Houses of Parliament of Jamaica.
During their meeting, the President and the Governor-General acknowledged that the visit was in recognition of the vibrant and friendly relations between the countries.
They highlighted that the Visit demonstrated the strength and depth of India-Jamaica ties which pre-dated the formal establishment of diplomatic relations, beginning more than 175 years ago, with the arrival of the first Indians in Jamaica in 1845. They noted that Jamaica currently had a 70,000 strong Indian diaspora. The President and the Governor-General further agreed that the visit was a demonstration of the mutual desire of the countries to reinvigorate and further strengthen their warm and close bilateral relationship.
In the exchange between the Indian President and the Jamaican Prime Minister, the importance of the Jamaica-India relationship was reiterated. They expressed satisfaction at the steady growth in bilateral trade and investments while observing that there was scope for further cooperation. They agreed to encourage enhanced trade and economic relations, in light of the mutually beneficial complementarities and convergence. They called upon the private sector of both countries to explore and take advantage of the pro-business climate existing in both countries.
The two leaders identified areas for cooperation such as health and pharmaceuticals, including traditional medicine; ICT; logistics and infrastructure; agriculture; mining; and tourism. They noted the immense potential for expanding cooperation in the Knowledge and Business Processing sectors, given Jamaica’s strategic location and talented pool of English-speaking workforce.
The Prime Minister of Jamaica lauded the support in education and training provided by India over the years, particularly through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Scholarships. He expressed appreciation for the increase of ITEC training slots and scholarships from 30 to 50, the increase of ICCR scholarships from 1 to 5, and the announcement of 4 slots for defence training, to Jamaica. The two leaders underlined the opportunities for further cooperation in the education and training sector, as well as in sports.
Prime Minister Holness also commended India for its leadership in South-South cooperation and placed on record his sincere appreciation for the socio-economic development projects to be undertaken in Kitson Town, St. Catherine, with Indian developmental assistance.
The Prime Minister also reiterated the gratitude of the Government and people of Jamaica to the Government and people of India for the donation of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines which enabled Jamaica to start its COVID-19 vaccination drive.
The two leaders underlined the excellent cooperation between India and Jamaica in the regional and multilateral fora, including the United Nations (UN), Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Commonwealth. They emphasized the need for the urgent reform of the UN Security Council, including its expansion in both categories of membership, to make it more representative, accountable, effective and responsive to the geopolitical realities of the 21st century.
The leaders highlighted the threat of environmental pollution and climate change, especially to Small Island Developing States. They noted with satisfaction the developing cooperation through the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Relief Infrastructure and called for expanding bilateral cooperation in the area of climate change and sustainable development.
The two sides noted that international terrorism is a scourge and a threat to the entire civilized world. They called for expanding bilateral cooperation in the field of defence and security.
The President and the Prime Minister expressed appreciation for the role played by the vibrant Indian community in Jamaica in strengthening the bilateral relationship and in the economic and socio-cultural development of Jamaica. The President of India conveyed his appreciation for the warmth, goodwill and support extended to the Indian Diaspora by the Government and people of Jamaica.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service, the Ministry of External Affairs of India, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica.
The President of India inaugurated the India-Jamaica Friendship Garden at the Hope Botanical Gardens, St. Andrew. The Honourable President, the First Lady of India and The Most Honourable Lady Allen, the First Lady of Jamaica, also planted sandalwood saplings in the garden.
The President paid his respects and offered a floral tribute at the Shrine of Jamaican National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey. The President also inaugurated Dr B. R. Ambedkar Avenue, a re-named section of Tower Street, near the Supreme Court, Kingston.
The President also inaugurated a renamed section of Tower Street,
The President of India conveyed his deep appreciation for the warm hospitality extended to him and to his delegation and thanked the Governor-General and the Jamaican Government for the excellent arrangements made for the various ceremonial and official events during his State Visit to Jamaica.