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Sansad TV: Diplomatic Dispatch- India-Caricom Ties

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Introduction:

President had concluded a state visit to Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This was the first-ever visit by an Indian Head of State to these countries.

Caribbean Community (CARICOM):

  • CARICOM, Caribbean Community and Common Market, which is known as the Caribbean Community, was established on 4th July 1973 by the Treaty of Chaguaramas
  • CARICOM has 15 members – Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Cooperation in trade:

  • While India has diplomatic relations with the individual Caribbean countries for a long time, India thought of developing relations with CARICOM countries as a group.
  • A CARICOM delegation visited India in 2003. The major outcome of the visit was that an agreement was signed between India and CARICOM Secretariat for establishing a Standing Joint Commission on Consultation, Cooperation and Coordination.
  • The recent trends have shown that there is a greater potential for economic links through trade.
  • There is no doubt that China already plays a major economic role in the Caribbean, but with its growing middle-class India’s population is likely to surpass that of China by 2030 and it can provide a large market.
  • India’s total trade with Latin America and the Caribbean has averaged 117 million dollars between 2008-2010 while its trade with the CARICOM countries rose from 85.5 million US dollars in 2003-4 to 1195 million US dollars in 2009-10.
  • The major export destinations of India and import from the region to India are the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, Guyana, and Barbados.
  • India exports mostly pharmaceutical products, iron and steel, machinery and instruments to CARICOM. Crude petroleum, gold, metalliferous ores and scrap are major items that India imports from CARICOM.
  • For India, acquiring and renovation of hotels in the CARICOM region, which is a very popular tourist destination is bound to be fruitful. Investments in popular Indian style Ayurveda/ Yoga /

Boost to Investments:

  • India’s foreign direct investment to the Caribbean is also generally on the rise though it has seen a moderate decline between 2011 and 2017.
  • However, that is mostly due to the fall in FDI to British Virgin and Cayman islands, associate members of CARICOM.
  • Of the total investments to Latin America and the Caribbean, 70 percent had gone to the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands alone in 2011.
  • From April 2011 to November 2017, 46% of the Indian investments went to British Virgin Islands accounting for the largest share among the LAC countries.
  • The total investments between April 2011 to November 2017 in the Bahamas mostly in the construction sector was about US$ 163 million.
  • In the same period, India invested a total amount of about US$ 17.6 million mostly in agriculture and mining in Guyana.
  • Thus, there is also a change in the sectoral composition of these investments which have shifted towards agriculture and mining. For India, the Caribbean is strategically located for entry into the Latin American market. That is an added advantage that India should not forego.

Financial and technical assistance: 

  • The Government of India and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) signed a Contribution Agreement in 2019, which provides for a grant allocation of US$ 1 millionto the CDF’s capital fund
  • CDF’s directive is to give financial and technical assistance to countries or sectors within the Caribbean Community in areas such as the development of renewable energy or increasing energy efficiency; providing physical infrastructure to encourage investments and trade; encouraging small and medium enterprises and developing human resources.
  • In software and information technology, the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) is one of the prongs of the Development Partnership Administration established in 2012 in the Ministry of External Affairs, India.
  • India can also assist in increasing offshore medical centres, pharmaceutical manufacturing, including the supply of anti-retroviral drugs for fighting HIV/AIDS.
  • Having the advantage of a sizeable Indian diasporic community in the region along with the natural complementarities of products for trade with the region, this is the right time for closer cooperation and exploring further avenues for interaction for India—both bilateral and multilateral—based on multiple areas of mutual interests and concerns with the CARICOM countries.