India’s historic and warm relations with the countries of the Caribbean witnessed a new momentum with the meeting of PM Modi with 14 leaders of the CARICOM group of countries on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2019 in New York. Hon’ble Allen Chastenet, Prime Minister of St Lucia and current Chairman of CARICOM co-chaired the meeting. The meeting was attended by the Hon’ble 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 PM Modi with CARICOM leaders in a regional format and highlighted the steadily intensifying and deepening relations between India and partner countries of the Caribbean, not only in the bilateral, but also in the regional context. PM Modi reiterated India’s firm commitment to strengthen its political, economic and cultural engagement with CARICOM. He recalled the presence of more than a million-strong Indian diaspora as a vibrant and enduring link of friendship with the Caribbean.
The meeting deliberated 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. PM Modi also laid emphasis on partnering with CARICOM countries in capacity building, development assistance and cooperation in disaster management and resilience. He invited CARICOM countries to join the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. PM expressed his condolences on the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the region and the worst hit island of Bahamas to which India has provided immediate financial assistance of USD 1 million.
PM Modi announced a USD 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 centers in these countries. The Indian side also expressed support to specialized capacity building courses, training and deputation of Indian experts based on the needs and requirements of the CARICOM countries. He invited a Parliamentary delegation from CARICOM to visit India in the near future.
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.
It was decided to set up a Joint Task Force to expeditiously look into possible areas of cooperation and identify the way forward.
The India-Caricom Leaders’ Meeting held in New York was an important occasion for us. I thank the esteemed world leaders who joined the meeting. India is eager to work with our friends in the Caribbean to build a better planet.