By Dr Aprajita Kashyap
Geographical distance and historical connections (since the Whitby sailed from Calcutta for British Guiana in 1838) have been the determinants of Indo-Caribbean relations. What started as indentured servitude, has transformed into a successful diaspora in the fields of business, politics, culture and education. This has opened new vistas for Caribbean partnership with India because the people of Indian origin are now in a position to wield considerable power and influence. A new trend of tracing their origin and connections with India without any baggage of the past is building a bridge between the two regions.
Augmenting the linkages are synergies like people-to-people contacts, trade and economic cooperation, common stand on deliberations on climate change, concerns for food security, sustainable utilisation of ocean resources and capacity building for disaster/ pandemic management. South-South linkages and the intentions towards diversification of trade have also acted as catalysts that have facilitated the shrinking of space and bridging the phases (from one-way indentured connection to two-way trade partners) especially within the transnational processes and institutions. Furthermore, holiday tourism is an interesting dimension of people-to-people relations. Several countries in the Caribbean region encourage tourism from India by providing visa-free travel.
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Beyond the Security Council, India and Caribbean countries have enjoyed a warm relation of supporting each other in various multilateral forums including the Non-aligned Movement and G-77. The Caribbean countries and the peninsular region of India have similarities in terms of geography, specifically access to the seas and oceans. The situation with respect to the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and some islands of India calls for particular attention more so by the potential impact of climate change. Comparable thematic orientation and views on Climate change are well aligned and are indeed a fresh start for the associations.
The bilateral relations are reinforced well within the CARICOM or the Caribbean Community as a group.CARICOM was created in the year 1973 and is an observer at the UN General Assembly. India-CARICOM Ministerial meetings have become a staple feature on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, usually attended by the EAM from India. India has signed a contribution agreement with the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) in January 2019, about ten years after its creation in 2008. India has agreed to grant US$ one million to the CDF’s capital fund. This makes India a development partner of CARICOM.India’s exploration of business opportunities in CARICOM lies in the fields of medical tourism, educational institutions, low-cost housing projects, renewable energy, information technology-enabled services and agricultural farming.
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Today, moving beyond relations with countries within the membership of the Commonwealth, India has been welcomed to be associated with much other regional and sub-regional groupings.The vibrant community, their ethnic connections with India and common colonial history has laid the foundations for the India-Caribbean relations that have come to circumnavigate distance and other challenges. The robust interaction through Bollywood, Yoga, Ayurveda and Indian culture is well-received. Interestingly, the guests of honour at this year’s Pravasi Bharatiya Divas were the President of Cooperative Republic of Guyana and President of the Republic of Suriname.The million-strong, Indian diaspora concentrated in the Caribbean countries shall continue to reinforce our deep connections.The supportive efforts of India towards tackling COVID19 has been noteworthy.The pillars of an enhanced partnership between India and the Caribbean would largely be the reduction in transaction and transport costs, legalisation of collaborations and cashing in on cultural connect would be the partnership.
The author is Faculty at CCUS & LAS, SIS JNU, New Delhi. Email: email@example.com
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