Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Jamaica, UK forging closer defence ties

Published:Monday | February 3, 2020 | 12:18 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Asif Ahmad, British high commissioner to Jamaica.

A new defence pact with the United Kingdom (UK) could be in the making if talks between Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) head, Lieutenant General Rocky Meade, and his British counterpart, General Sir Nick Carter, went as well as is being stated by the high commission.

Further to the dialogue between the two army men, there are discussions on the prospect of Jamaica developing its own Sandhurst-type academy for leadership.

Carter, the most senior British commander in living memory to have visited the island, was in the island last week on the invitation of Meade, the embassy said.

High Commissioner Asif Ahmad said that the proposed academy might not be exclusively for the JDF, but could also involve the training of Jamaica Constabulary Force personnel.

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, located in Berkshire, is where all officers in the British Army are trained to take responsibility for leading their soldiers. Members of the JDF are also trained there.

“The one agreement they have almost pencilled in but have not yet inked, and both commanders have shaken hands on, is that Jamaica will develop their own Sandhurst-accredited academy and we will support it,” said Ahmad.

He said the academy is being envisaged as a centre of excellence, not just for Jamaica, but for enrolment of officers from the greater Caribbean as well as from West Africa.

SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP

“An agreement was reached to have the conversation to make this much more a reality. These are some of the headline things the chief of defence staff left Jamaica with,” Ahmad said, adding that it is not just warm words, but plans in which Meade himself admitted to have keen interest.

“The fact we are having these conversations at this critical time shows how seriously we take the relationship that we have between Jamaica and the UK,” Ahmad said.

Jamaica continues to benefit from UK defence aid. The UK has two attachés in Latin America and the Caribbean – one in Jamaica and the other in Mexico.

Ahmad hinted at future purchases of UK military hardware by the JDF, stating that the Jamaican Government would have the option of accepting as gifts some items it deems necessary for its defence portfolio.

He said that the UK was concerned about Jamaica’s vulnerability to cybercrime in election interference, the threat to its banking system, as well as its telecommunications infrastructure.

“In terms of equipment, we want to look at what is sensible to have and what Jamaica would want to buy outright for itself, or if we were to give equipment as a gift, to have sensible conversations along those lines,” said Ahmad.

The UK is the second largest exporter of defence products and services behind the United States, with exports of US$120 billion between 2007 and 2016.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com