Indian state minister to visit Jamaica to strengthen ties
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The second in command in India's Ministry of External Affairs is to arrive in the island next month for an official visit as the administration of Narendra Damodardas Modi carries out its promise to strengthen bilateral ties with Jamaica.
Retired military officer General Vijay Kumar Singh, the minister of state for external affairs and state minister for the North East Region in the National Democratic Alliance government, will be meeting members of the Jamaican Government.
The precise date of the visit has yet to be finalised.
The disclosure was made during a reception Monday night in celebration of the Republic Day of India, hosted by Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica Pratap Singh at his East Kings House Road residence in St Andrew.
Singh was one of the political leaders who last year engaged senior journalists from the region, including The Gleaner, on how bilateral and diplomatic ties could be deepened.
India has also increased the number of scholarships that the country grants to Jamaicans annually.
Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who is off the island, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites expressed gratitude to the Indian Government.
"We look forward to next month's visit of your foreign minister of state and anticipate other high-level visits as well," said Thwaites.
He added: "We remain committed to working together in partnership as we seek to improve the lives of both our peoples and further strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries."
Thwaites noted that new bonds for cultural exchange and understanding between the peoples of Jamaica and India have been facilitated by the establishment of the Chair on Idology and erection of the Mahatma Gandhi Statue at the University of the West Indies (UWI).
"This was made possible through the generous assistance of the Government of India through its high commission in Kingston," he said.
Thwaites also noted that Jamaica benefits considerably from technical assistance through the Indian Technical and Economic Programme (ITEC).
He said Jamaican civil servants have received training in areas such as information technology, agriculture, public sector management, and legislative drafting, among other disciplines.
"Jamaica continues to benefit from this programme and was pleased with the decision of the Indian authorities to increase the number of spaces allotted to Jamaica this year from 15 to 20," said Thwaites.
For Singh, the celebration of India's 66th Republic Day assumes special significance as it is being observed at a time when India is witnessing a turning point in its post-Independence era.
He said that immediately after assuming power, the new government embarked on a series of reforms in almost all areas, including foreign policy and governance and economy.
"As for foreign policy, the government has adopted a proactive and innovative approach to conducting external affairs; the Government has added new dimensions to its foreign policy that is now aligned with Government's primary goal of accelerating national economic development," he said.