India’s historic and warm relations with the countries of the Caribbean witnessed a new momentum with the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 14 leaders of the CARICOM group of countries on side-lines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr. Allen Chastenet, Prime Minister of St Lucia and current Chairman of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) co-chaired the meeting. The meeting was attended by the Heads of Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Vice President of Suriname, and Foreign Ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Haiti and Guyana.
It was the first-ever meeting of Prime Minister Modi with CARICOM leaders in a regional format and highlighted the steadily intensifying and deepening relations between India and partner countries of the Caribbean. India is firmly committed to strengthening political, economic and cultural engagement with CARICOM. The presence of more than a million-strong Indian diaspora is a vibrant and enduring link of friendship with the Caribbean.
Deliberations took place on strengthening the political and institutional dialogue processes, boosting economic cooperation, increasing trade and investment and fostering greater and more robust people- to- people relations. Indian Prime Minister also laid emphasis on partnering with CARICOM countries in capacity building, development assistance and cooperation in disaster management and resilience. India provided immediate financial assistance of US$ 1 million to the Bahamas in the aftermath of the Hurricane Dorian.
India announced a US$ 14 million grant for community development projects in the CARICOM and another 150 million Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate- change related projects. He also announced the setting up of the Regional Center for Excellence in Information Technology in Georgetown, Guyana and the Regional Vocational Training Center in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centres in these countries. CARICOM leaders welcomed the initiatives proposed by PM Modi to strengthen engagement and cooperation between the two sides and reassured full support from their respective governments.
The India-Pacific Islands Developing States (PSIDS) Leaders’ Meeting also took place in New York on the side-lines of the 74th UNGA. The meeting was attended by the Heads of delegation of Fiji, Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Federated States of
Micronesia, Republic of Nauru, Republic of Palau, Independent State of Papua New Guinea, The Independent State of Samoa, Solomon Islands, Kingdom of Tonga, Tuvalu and Republic of Vanuatu.
India’s relationship with Pacific Island nations has deepened with the evolution of ‘Act East Policy’, resulting in the setting up of the action-oriented Forum for India–Pacific Island Cooperation (FIPIC). The first and second editions of the FIPIC took place in Fiji (2015) and Jaipur (2016). During the FIPIC Summits Prime Minister articulated India’s desire to be a close partner of the Pacific Island nations and its readiness to work closely to advance their developmental agenda.
The Leaders’ deliberated on wide range of issues including sharing of development experiences for attainment of SDGs, enhancing cooperation in renewable energy, joining the newly launched Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, capacity building, implementation of projects under the India-UN Development Partnership Fund and a roadmap for future India-PSIDS cooperation.
Prime Minister Modi emphasized that India and the PSIDS have shared values and a shared future. He highlighted the need for development policies to be inclusive and sustainable to reduce inequality and contribute to empowerment and improvement of the quality of people’s lives. He said that India is equally committed to tackle the impact of climate change and supports efforts of the PSIDs to achieve their developmental goals through necessary developmental and technical assistance.
Mr. Modi underlined the reality of climate change and called for increasing the share of renewable energy in the total energy mix to mitigate many adverse effects of climate change. He expressed his satisfaction as many countries from the region have joined the International Solar Alliance and invited others to join this initiative. PM also invited Leaders of PSIDS to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
India announced allocation of US$ 12 million grant (US$ 1 million to each PSIDS) towards implementation of high impact developmental project in the area of their choice.
Script: Kaushik Roy, Air: News Analyst