The visit of Ms. Kamina Johnson Smith, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of the island country Jamaica situated in the Caribbean Sea, is likely to give further impetus to the bilateral relations between the two countries. It would also help in accelerating the volume of bilateral trade ties. This was the first ever visit by a Jamaican Foreign Minister to India and coincided with the holding of 5th foreign office consultations between New Delhi and Kingston. India attaches great significance to its closer ties with Jamaica, this can be gauged from the fact that Minister of State for External Affairs , Gen. Dr. V K Singh (Retd.), has visited Kingston twice in past over two years.
Ms. Smith met with the External Affairs Minister, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj. The two leaders held discussions on various aspects of bilateral ties as well as important regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest. They focused on building closer cooperation in the areas of trade and investment, health and health tourism, capacity building, agriculture, culture and tourism among others. The Jamaican Minister expressed gratitude for donation of US $ 150,000 worth of medicines to her country as also for India’s contribution of US $ 200,000 for the countries affected by the recent hurricanes.
The Jamaican Minister also held meetings with Minister of State for tourism, Mr. K J Alphons, besides the Health and Family Welfare Minister, Mr. J P Nadda, and discussed cooperation in the fields of tourism and health care. An interaction with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) also took place. She also met leading Indian IT companies and the business community in Mumbai.
The bilateral economic and commercial interactions between India and Jamaica are constrained by the small size of economy and distance from India. However, a preferential trade arrangement with the Caribbean is growing. A Line of Credit worth US $ 7.5 million was extended by India for import of water pumps in 2001 while New Delhi set up an IT centre under the ICT capacity development project in Jamaica in 2009. An assistance of US $ 200,000 in the form of medicines and medical supplies for victims of hurricane Ivan that struck the island in 2004 was given by Indian government as humanitarian assistance. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in March 2014Ø between the Government of India and Government of Jamaica for providing Indian grant assistance of US$ 2.1 million for installation of flood lights at the Sabina Park.
While trade has risen over the years it has not been substantial. As figures suggest in the year 2016-17, exports to Jamaica were to the tune of US $ 43.44 million while imports from that country were US $ 1.17 million. The total trade was worth US $ 44.61 million and trade balance figure was US $ 42.27 million. However, the current year from April-June has seen India’s exports to Jamaica worth US $ 11.27 million, imports worth US $ 2.92 million while the total trade was worth US $ 14.19 million while the balance stood at US $ 8.35 million.
While the major items of India’s exports to Jamaica are pharmaceuticals products, motor parts, mineral fuels, mineral oils, textiles, cotton, industrial machinery besides plastic products and precious and semi-precious stones and artificial jewellery, Indian imports from that country are mainly beverages, organic chemicals, steel scrap and other miscellaneous products.
India enjoys cordial relations with the Carribean island countries sine times immemorial. As India has a large diaspora population in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname e tc., the linkages are age-old. Also, the mutual love for cricket has made the Caribbean countries very popular in India. Jamaica, which is also popularly known as the melting pot of African, Asian and European cultures, has a sizeable Indian Diaspora with about 70,000 of them there whose forefathers came from India. They constitute around three per cent of the Jamaican population. In fact, May 10 every year is officially celebrated as the ‘Indian Heritage Day’ in Jamaica. The duty free business is monopolized by the Indo-Jamaican community with a major share of jewellery, electronics and household goods market.
Script: Vinit Wahi, Journalist