Relations between India, Jamaica headed for new highsSunday, March 21, 2021
It may be by happy coincidence, but right at the time that Jamaica was dispatching its first resident high commissioner to India, the Indian Government was gifting Jamaica its first batch of the sorely needed COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.
Ambassador Jason Hall began his historic journey to Delhi two Saturdays ago, 31 years after the proposal to establish a mission in India was first made during the tenure of Dr Paul Robertson as foreign minister.
The Jamaican High Commission in India was opened last September. It is moot whether it was the decision to establish the high commission or the offer of the gift vaccines which came first. We believe that it is about time.
The call for a mission in India came in the 1990s report on the foreign service, which also recommended at the time the establishment of embassies in China and Brazil. Diplomatic relations between China and Jamaica were established on November 21, 1972, with the Chinese setting up an embassy in Kingston a year later and Jamaica reciprocating in Beijing 32 years after.
Jamaica and Brazil established diplomatic relations on October 14, 1962. Fifty years later, Jamaica opened an embassy in Brazil in March 2012, but closed it with effect from March 1, 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 scourge.
India has had diplomatic relations with Jamaica since Independence. But the two countries have had a longer association dating back to the middle of the 19th century when indentured labourers came from India to work on the sugar plantations.
More importantly, there is an enormous untapped potential for trade, investment, and technology transfer. India is one of the world's oldest unique civilisations and today it has a population of 1.34 billion people. Its land area makes it the seventh largest country in the world and its economy is the sixth largest in the world based on gross domestic product (GDP).
While millions of Indians are still trapped in rural poverty, it is a highly industrialised country with a space industry, a world-famous information technology industry, and a film industry. It is a nuclear power and has an army of 1.2 million.
To tap this opportunity, the Government has wisely chosen Mr Hall, formerly our ambassador to Mexico, who will also have non-resident accreditation as ambassador to Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Nepal.
Prior to his Mexico assignment he served in both the public and private sectors for more than 26 years and has significant managerial experience in marketing, tourism, business development, and public relations. His previous roles included that of deputy director of the Jamaica Tourist Board.
We suggest that there is no point sending a man into the wilderness without dates, honey and water, as our foreign ministry is wont to do. He must be given competent staff and a workable travel budget. India is a big country and far from Singapore.
Ambassador Hall, in turn, must increase the number of unpaid honorary consuls and understand that it is not countries that trade and invest, it is private companies that do.
We look forward to robust and mutually productive relations between Delhi and Kingston.
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