External Affairs Minister of India Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar who is on a four day official visit to Guyana began his engagements with an extensive meeting with CARICOM for the 4th CARICOM-India Ministerial Meeting at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters on 21 April 2023.
Dr S Jaishankar met Secretary General Dr. Carla Natalie Barnett and her team, and exchanged views for intensifying India-CARICOM ties in traditional as well as new areas of cooperation. He also congratulated her on the 50 years of CARICOM.
External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar then Co-chaired the 4th India-CARICOM Ministerial Meeting with Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Smith at the CARICOM HQ in Georgetown. The Meeting of Foreign Ministers has been seen as another meaningful step towards institutionalizing the high-level engagements between India and the CARICOM nations. It follows the establishment of the CARICOM-India Joint Commission in 2015, the resumption of Ministerial meetings, and the first CARICOM-India Summit-Level Meeting in 2019. These engagements have given impetus to the relationship and provided policy guidance for future CARICOM-India interactions and are seen as another step towards strengthening relations.
The meeting discussed how the strategic partnership can advance the Region’s priorities, such as climate change, agriculture & energy. The solidarity and support from India are seen to contribute towards regional integration objectives including agriculture, ICT, climate change and disaster risk management.
The ministers discussed the wide-ranging sectoral cooperation, including in Trade & Economy; Agriculture & Food Security; Health & Pharma; Energy & Renewables; Infrastructure, ICT & eGovernance; Development Partnership & Capacity Building; Higher Education; Culture and P2P domains. They also exchanged views on vital issues of Climate Change & Disaster Resilience; Counter Terrorism; Reformed Multilateralism and closer cooperation at multilateral forums. They also agreed on follow-up steps, including holding the second Joint Commission Meeting this year.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar underlined the pressing global issues, including Covid-19, climate events, debt and trade stress, and food and energy security during the fourth India-CARICOM ministerial meeting. “Covid, increasing intensity and frequency of climate events, the debt and trade stress situations that many of us find ourselves in and food and energy security concerns are really pressing issues where it is important for us to sit down and discuss,” said Dr Jaishankar, who co-chaired the meeting.
India, which currently chairs the G20, is keen on supporting countries not on the table through the ‘Voice of Global South’ process, he added. “This year we have the privilege of chairing the G20 and my PM is very clear that we (should) be there not just for ourselves but also for the countries who are not on the G20 table. Therefore, we did a round of consultations on what we call the Voice of Global South process,” EAM Dr Jaishankar said.
At the India-CARICOM ministerial meeting, EAM Dr Jaishankar put forward a proposal for small and medium-scale enterprises in the Caribbean and suggested supporting individual projects of up to a value of a million dollars on a grant basis and creating a partner group in India to provide machinery, technology, and training. “What we’d like to do is to create a partner group in India and see whether our capability which will include the supply of machinery, technology, training – if we can get really viable project offers from your side, we would be very happy to look at that,” Dr Jaishankar said.
He also highlighted the importance of health security and proposed a regional hub for low-cost generics from USFDA-approved plants in India. The minister explained that India has a domestic initiative for cost-effective generics, which could benefit low-income consumers globally. “If you feel that is of interest, we are creating a system for low-cost generics to be available to your people. We would like to create a regional hub for that. All of these would come from USFDA-approved plants of which currently we have about 600 in India,” he said.
Jaishankar emphasized India’s willingness to support and partner with the countries in the CARICOM region and globally to tackle pressing global issues.
CARICOM Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett, in her remarks spoke about the solidarity and support from India that continues to contribute to the advancement of regional integration objectives in areas such as agriculture, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), climate change mitigation and adaptation, and disaster risk management. “The multi-sectoral capacity building programming under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme has benefited CARICOM Member States greatly. The Government of India has provisioned US$150 Million in concessional credit to the Region. In addition, CARICOM-India knowledge sharing has been facilitated in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, through ICT Centres established in Grenada and Guyana and, most recently, through the secondment of an Indian Fisheries Expert to the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM). The CARICOM Secretariat itself has also benefitted from the generosity of the Government of India through its provision of equipment, training and technical assistance in ICT”.
Dr S Jaishankar also held bilateral meetings with his counterparts from other participating countries. In his meeting with Hon’ble Albert Ramdin of Suriname they discussed bilateral and multilateral issues of interest. In his meeting with Foreign Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis, they noted the resonance in agriculture and digital domains, and emphasized that India will always voice the concerns of the Global South.
With the Bahamas Parliamentary Secretary Jamahl Strachen, who is himself an Indian alumnus, both sides discussed ISA, CDRI, training and UNSC reform. In his meeting with FM Joseph Andall of Grenada topics of discussion included advancing the development partnership and reaffirmation of belief in Reformed Multilateralism.
Barbados Foreign Minister Kerrie Symmonds then exchanged views on working together in domains of renewable energy, health and skills. Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith of Jamaica, who, earlier in the day had effectively co-chairing the India-CARICOM meeting, then discussed taking forward cooperation in training & development partnership. They also agreed on importance of business to business exchanges for stronger ties.
In his meeting with Dr. Amery Browne, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, they discussed on taking forward the development partnership focusing on digital transformation and health domains and cooperation at multilateral forums.
He also met the FM of St. Vincent and Grenadines Keisal Peters and FM Alva Baptiste of St Lucia. His meeting with the St Vincent & Grenadines FM, discussions centered on interest in Millets, ongoing projects and further expanding of cooperation. (Press release from the Indian High Commission in Georgetown)