R. Masakui | On a mission to strengthen bonds of India-Jamaica relationship
I came to Jamaica directly from Zimbabwe, where I served as the Indian ambassador for four years. Even before coming to Jamaica, I was captivated by the great cultural icon Bob Marley, who was the only international artist invited to perform at the celebration of Independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. Such is the coincidence that my residence in Kingston, ‘the India House’, shares its boundary with the Bob Marley Museum.
As far as our stay in Jamaica is concerned, it has been very comfortable. My family and I have been touched by the warmth and the welcoming nature of the people of the country. Their carefree spirit is infectious and it feels as if we have known this place for a long time. I have also had the opportunity to observe the stunning natural beauty of your country in my maiden trip to Montego Bay. Jamaica is blessed with beautiful beaches, mountains, as well as luxuriant greenery, a combination that is rare to find.
FURTHER STRENGTHENING RELATIONSHIPS
Both our countries have similar colonial histories and are vibrant parliamentary democracies today, with youthful and aspirational populations. Our mutual partnership has indeed strengthened over the past few years on the back of multiple meetings between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jamaican PM Andrew Holness at the sidelines of different multilateral gatherings. The recent opening of the Jamaican Diplomatic Mission in India is another step forward in this blooming relationship. We also cooperate very closely in various multilateral fora, including at the UN and in the Commonwealth on issues that are of global importance. If you look at the number of Indians coming to Jamaica for work or for tourism, you will notice a steady increase.
I plan to pick up from where my predecessor left off and continue to build on the good work. Increasing economic cooperation, especially in the fields of ICT, pharmaceuticals and SMEs, as well as deepening people-to-people contacts is something that is high on my agenda. I also see a lot of scope for cooperation in the field of climate change, with both India and Jamaica being at the receiving end of it in a major way. Jamaica has already joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA), an initiative started by India and France. I look forward to assisting with the planning and execution of solar power projects in Jamaica under this initiative. Another area of cooperation is in disaster management, Jamaica being prone to hurricanes and landslides. India has already invited Jamaica to join the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), an international coalition of countries, multilateral bodies, and the private sector, to promote disaster-resilient infrastructure.
India enjoys huge capacity as far as technical and skill-based training is concerned, something it has been sharing with Jamaica through its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC). My endeavour will be to increase the number of Jamaicans travelling to India for technical and skill-based education, which will have a greater positive impact on Jamaica. As far as multilateral cooperation is concerned, further enhancing the India-CARICOM relation as well as coordination at the UN on issues of extremism and terrorism, UN reforms, etc, will also be something that I will seek to achieve. Similarly, there are avenues for Jamaica to help India in training our track and field athletes, which Jamaica is good at and is for which it is known.
DEEP-ROOTED INDIAN CONNECTION
Jamaica has people of Indian origin who came more than a hundred years ago and made here their home. Like in any other country, the Indian Diaspora in Jamaica can be distinguished by their peace-loving nature, their respect for the host country’s culture, and by their industrious nature. To add to that, we have approximately 5,000 Indian expatriates, mostly professionals, providing their services in Jamaica. In my limited interactions with the Indian community in Kingston, Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios, I could tell that they have carved a special niche for themselves in the society and have not only preserved their unique culture and values, but have also contributed to their country of adoption.
Twenty-twenty being the 175th year of the arrival of the first Indians in Jamaica, the high commission had planned extensive outreach and cultural activities but had to cancel them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, during my tour of duty here, I am committed to connecting with the Indian Diaspora and working with them. Lastly, I would like to thank the Government of Jamaica for warmly welcoming the Indian Diaspora, making them comfortable and integrating them into the main African- Jamaican society.
In spite of being a country of more than 1.3 billion people, India has been able to contain the wave of COVID-19 infection to a large extent. This was possible due to the timely steps taken by the government of India and the utilisation of the massive health infrastructure of the country. Even during the pandemic, India was able to promote economic reforms in order to revive growth and create jobs. Jamaica has also done very well as far as limiting fatalities from the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned.
India shipped several tons of medical supplies to more than a hundred countries, including to Jamaica to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, even as we fight the pandemic on war footing. It is common knowledge that more than half a dozen COVID-19 vaccine trials are ongoing in India, with at least three in the final stage of testing. As and when a COVID vaccine is declared safe and effective, India will definitely use its vaccine-producing capacity to provide vaccines to the entire world, especially to fellow developing countries like Jamaica in the spirit of South-South cooperation. Not only this, once the pandemic is over, India will cooperate with like-minded countries to put protocols in place for such future health emergencies on a global level.
IN LOVE WITH THE CUISINE
Jerk chicken was the first thing that I tried in Jamaica because I was advised to do so by my friends in Harare and was blown over by its hot and smoky seasoning. I have also tried the ackee and salt fish and liked it very much. In fact, I can cook it, too. Rice and peas are also a good lunch to have. Many of the spices used to cook these are the same as we use in India. I am also excited to count as many as 21 fruit trees at India House. Most of them are common to India and make me feel at home.
- R. Masakui is the new high commissioner of India to Jamaica. He joined the Indian Diplomatic Mission in Kingston on November 8, 2020. Before coming to Jamaica, he served as India’s ambassador to Zimbabwe for the last four years. He has also served in Indonesia, South Africa, Bangladesh, and at the Indian External Affairs Ministry Headquarters in New Delhi. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.