By: Radhakrishna NS
INDIAN prime minister Narendra Modi announced a $14-million grant for community development projects in a grouping of Caribbean nations and another $150m Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate-change related works as he hosted the first-ever India-Caricom leaders’ summit here.
“India’s historic and warm relations with the countries of the Caribbean witnessed a new momentum” in the meeting held Wednesday (25), an official press release said.
St Lucia prime minister and current CARICOM chairman Allen Chastenet co-chaired the meeting held on the margins of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly.
Prime minister Modi announced a grant of $14m for community development works in the CARICOM and another $150m Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate-change related projects, the press release stated.
He also announced the setting up of the Regional Centre for Excellence in Information Technology in Guyana’s Georgetown and the Regional Vocational Training Centre in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centres in these two countries.
The Caribbean community, also known as CARICOM, is a grouping of 15 member states and five associate members.
Caricom countries came together in 1973 to form an economic and political community that works jointly to shape policies for the region and encourages economic growth and trade.
Wednesday’s meeting was attended by top leadership and representatives from Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.
The meeting was the first-ever meeting of Modi with CARICOM leaders in a regional format and highlighted the steadily intensifying relations between India and partner countries of the Caribbean, both bilaterally as well as regionally.
During the meeting, Modi reiterated India’s firm commitment to strengthen its political, economic and cultural engagement with CARICOM and noted the presence of over a million-strong Indian diaspora as a vibrant and enduring link of friendship with the Caribbean nations.
The meeting deliberated on the strengthening the political and institutional dialogue processes, boosting economic cooperation, increasing trade and investment and fostering greater and more robust people-to-people relations.
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 (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), which was announced by the prime minister in his address to the UN Climate Action Summit.
Modi also 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 an immediate financial assistance of $1m.
India also expressed support to specialised 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.
The CARICOM leaders welcomed the initiatives proposed by Modi to strengthen engagement and cooperation between the two sides and reassured full support from their respective governments.
During the meeting, a decision was taken to set up a Joint Task Force to expeditiously look into possible areas of cooperation and identify the way forward.
Just ahead of the meeting, Modi said it was an important initiative and thanked the leaders of the Caricom group of countries for attending it.
Outlining climate change and increasing India’s participation with the Caricom nations as the focus of the meeting, he said he expects the discussion takes into consideration past experiences, present requirements and aspirations of the future.
Earlier in the day, Modi had meetings with Shell CEO Ben van Beurden, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, Boeing Defense, Space and Security CEO Leanne Caret.
Modi had separate meetings with Marriott Hotels president and CEO Arne Sorenson, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Walmart president and CEO Douglas McMillon and Chairman and CEO of Coca Cola James Quincey.
“Showcasing India as an attractive destination for doing business,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said of the business meeting.