If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
—John Quincy Adams
Chandikapersad Santokhi’s meteoric rise to become Suriname’s first elected Indian-origin President will no doubt make many in the diaspora dream of emulating his political success. In a way, as America’s sixth president John Quincy Adams put it, his rise can inspire others to do more, learn more and become more.
Elected uncontested, President Santokhi’s presence at the helm of affairs in Suriname will no doubt strengthen India’s engagement with the Latin American-Caribbean region, something that needs more traction. Already we’ve an Indian origin president in neighbouring Guyana. With better cohesion the Indian-origin majority in Trinidad and Tobago could propel one of their own to the top political leadership of that nation. In Paramaribo, the Surinamese capital city, President Santokhi’s July 16 swearing-in during which he recited Sanskrit verses besides taking oath of office in other languages caught the imagination of the diaspora. It also did not fail to escape the notice of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In this interview to our magazine, President Santokhi says that reciting Sanskrit verses has always been part of special ceremonies in both his personal life as well as in his previous positions as a Minister of Justice, and as a parliamentarian—in 2018 he had led the first PIO Parliamentary delegation from Suriname to India. He speaks about the East Indian diaspora in Suriname and the Netherlands, the umbilical connection between the Suriname Ghat in Kolkata and the Mai-Baap statues in Paramaribo, about how India can play a key role in Suriname when it comes to clean energy and IT (see related article on page 25), and how fresh dialogue with India has been opened through the Indian mission in Paramaribo. On his part, Indian Ambassador Mahender Singh Kanyal, who also has been interviewed, says that India is confident that under President Santokhi’s leadership bilateral relations in every sphere will scale new heights in coming times.