CARICOM, India move to enhance relations as Joint Commission meets
The long anticipated inaugural meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-India Joint Commission was held on Tuesday 2 June at the Georgetown, Guyana, Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Leading the team from India was Vice Minister and Special Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, His Excellency Mr. R. Swaminathan, who lauded the longstanding relations that existed between CARICOM and India. The relationship, he said, was solidified by mutually beneficial cooperation arrangements and cricket, which played a significant unifying role.
CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque noted that the Indian Government was an important partner to the Caribbean Region. With Embassies and High Commissions in four CARICOM States – Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – as well as having an Ambassador accredited to CARICOM, he said India had “well established its presence in the Region.”
The Agreement establishing the CARICOM-India Joint Commission was signed in 2003, but the Secretary-General noted that there had been several important engagements since then, including the rationalisation of the framework within which the Commission should function.
Through that framework, CARICOM nationals and the CARICOM Secretariat have accessed educational opportunities, capacity-building in health, agriculture disaster management and diplomacy. There has been significant collaboration between Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and its counterpart, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) in battling crop disease.
Over the past ten years, the Secretariat’s ability to serve CARICOM Member States was enhanced through India’s design and implementation of the Information Technology systems. Following a visit by a needs assessment team from India recently, the Indian Government has committed to an upgrade of the systems in the coming year.
Secretary-General LaRocque said that the inaugural meeting allowed for the exchange of views on ways to further enhance bilateral collaboration in various fields and on issues on the international stage, and to further strengthen relations between the two parties.
Of significance in that context are the three imminent global conferences: The Third International Conference on Financing for Development; the UN Summit on the Post-2015 Development Agenda; and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“For CARICOM, the issues at all three have a significant impact on our development. The international development financing landscape has not been advantageous to us in more recent times. Designation as middle-income countries means that most CARICOM countries are no longer eligible for concessional development financing. This limitation forces heavy reliance on high-cost, public and private capital financing for our development needs. This criteria which has been imposed by the developed world for extending concessional development financing to small vulnerable states like CARICOM, based as it is on GDP per capita, needs to change,” Secretary-General LaRocque pointed out.
While the Region continued to feel the impact of the 2008-2009 financial crises and the burden of high debt and low growth, it also grappled with the existential threat of climate change, Ambassador LaRocque stated.
“Our countries also face the existential threat of climate change. Our Region has been designated one of the most natural disaster-prone in the world and the increased intensity of storms and sea-level rise pose particular problems for us. As has occurred in our Region, one climatic event can ravage the infrastructure and inflict damage amounting to more than 100 per cent of GDP. As recently as Christmas 2013, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia suffered from floods arising from a freak storm which in three hours created havoc across the countries,” he added.
He noted that recent events in India which recorded deaths of more than 2,000 people from on-going heat waves, demonstrated the global threat posed by climate change. In expressing sympathy, Ambassador LaRocque said that the unusual climatic events emphasised the need for a global solution to a global crisis. He indicated CARICOM’s fervent hope that it could work with India towards achieving favourable outcomes at the upcoming international meetings. The Secretary-General also signalled CARICOM’s support to India in its call for reform of the United Nations Security Council both in the case of numbers and also geographic distribution.