“Bilateral relations will scale new heights”

H.E. Mr Mahender Singh Kanyal, Ambassador of India to Suriname, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines responded to questions from the India Empire Magazine on a range of subjects ...

As a goodwill gesture to furthering the development and resilience of the Caribbean Community which has historical ties to India and is home to a large Indian diaspora community, India joined CariCom Development Fund as its International Development Partner in January 2019 with a contribution of US$ 1 million. Under this partnership, India will be supporting the goals of CDF to provide financial and technical assistance to disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, sector-specific physical infrastructure to facilitate private sector, trade and investment, resilience building, concessional financing for SMEs and human resource development. Particular care has been given to engaging smaller nations, which underlines India’s new approach towards climate change and sustainable development.

It is a matter of great pride for us all in India and for the diaspora globally that Governments in Suriname and Guyana are now headed by the respective Presidents with Indian roots. We are confident that under the dynamic leadership of H.E. Mr. Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname, bilateral relations in all spheres will scale new heights in the coming times.

India has several projects with individual countries in the region under Development Cooperation Partnership, Grants, technical assistance under ITEC, Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS), ICCR/AYUSH Scholarships, projects under India-UNDP Funds for SVG, St. Lucia and Barbados, IBSA for St. Lucia, humanitarian financial assistance, medical supplies and protective gear worth US$ 100,000 as a gesture of solidarity, grant of US$ 200,000 under Quick Impact Projects to SVG and several flagship programmes for diaspora, which have benefitted immensely Suriname and Mission’s three accredited countries of St.

Lucia, Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Suriname, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines are signatory to International Solar Alliance Framework Agreements (ISAFA). India-Suriname and India-SVG have visa waiver MoU for diplomatic, official and service passport holders. Barbados has a visa waiver for Indian nationals. A number of MoUs have been signed and implemented between India and Suriname and India and St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Certainly, India’s engagement with the LAC region is going to be further intensified in the coming years.

You are also the Head of Mission for India in Barbados, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Could you throw some light on the Indian community in these countries?

SURINAME: India is proud of the fact that in spite of the vast geographical distance, different time zones and cultural differences between their adopted countries and their country of origin, the Indian diaspora which arrived in Suriname 147 years ago never disconnected themselves with their roots. While fully assimilating with the local culture, the Indian diaspora continues to cherish, uphold and pass down from one generation to another their traditions, rites and rituals, cuisine, language, folklore etc. and have made significant contribution in all spheres to the sustainable development of Suriname. It is gratifying to note that Suriname has also the distinction of the most prominent foreign country in the world in the field of promotion of Hindi language.

We also see vibrant India diaspora in the countries of Mission’s accreditation i.e. St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados. ST. LUCIA: The Indian ancestral roots in St. Lucia can be traced to Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh. The first ship carrying 318 indentured workers from India, the Palmyra, arrived in Saint Lucia on 6 May 1859, and the last ship carrying Indian indentured workers, the Volga, arrived on 10 December 1893. It is believed that overall, 13 ships transported nearly 4,500 Indian indentured workers to Saint Lucia between 1859 and 1893. There are about 18,600 persons of Indian origin including 5% of those having mixed marriages in St. Lucia, most of whom have assimilated into the local population.