Jamaica and India: A 177-Year-Old Friendship
President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind arrives at King’s House on Tuesday, May 17, for a State Dinner held in his honour. (Photos: Naphtali Junior)

In 1845, a vessel transporting 200 Indian nationals landed on the coast of Old Harbour, St Catherine, thus beginning a relationship between both countries. “Indians have blended seamlessly in the Jamaican society, much like our plants and trees which they brought with them,” said President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind in his official address at a State Dinner held in his honour on Tuesday evening at King’s House.

President Kovind was accompanied to the island by his wife, First Lady Savita Kovind, and his daughter, Swati. Besides his family, the president was accompanied on his four-day visit to the island by Union Minister Pankaj Chowdhary, Lok Sabha members of parliament Rama Devi and Satish Kumar Gautam, and secretary-level officers.

“Jamaica has a very special place in India and among our people,” said the Indian president. He continued, “Cricket icons like George Headley, Michael Holding and Chris Gayle are admired by generations of cricket lovers in India. And as you know, Indians are extremely passionate about cricket, which binds our geographically distant countries very close. The greatness of Usain Bolt is well-known to Indian sports lovers.”

The visit, too, coincides with India’s celebration of its 75th anniversary of Independence and Jamaica’s 60th.

“This is a striking reminder of the sacrifices, challenges and opportunities that we have endured in our journey to ensure, in the words of the Father of India, Mohandas Gandhi, that we need not wait to see what others do as ‘in a gentle way, you can shake the world’.” said Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

Both countries established diplomatic relations six days after Jamaica declared Independence. Since August 12, 1962, India has shown an “unswerving commitment to Jamaica’s development”, commented the governor general. It’s uncommon for the governor general to have his speech at a State Dinner interrupted with thunderous applause. However, the Jamaican heads of state, government officials, and members of the Indian community in Jamaica could not resist when Sir Allen shared, “This solidarity with Jamaica was magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic when we received the first donation of vaccines.”

The official visit ended yesterday, Wednesday, May 18, when the president, his family, and governmental retinue left the island for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The landmark visit to Jamaica will strengthen ties between both countries that have a shared bond in colonial pasts, histories replete with social reformers, and the use of education and technology as secret weapons. In President Kovind’s words, “Jamaica has the potential to be the knowledge highway in this region, catering to the needs of the large economies nearby. And in doing that, Jamaica will always find a willing partner in India.”

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his Member of Parliament wife Juliet descended the steps of King’s House moments before entering the ballroom where the State Dinner was held.
The dinner began with the playing of the national anthems of both countries. Seated at the head table alongside Jamaican Governor General Sir Patrick Allen (centre) and President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind (third left) were (from left) Juliet Holness, Member of Parliament and wife of Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness; Lady Allen, wife of Jamaican Governor General Sir Patrick Allen; Savita Kovind, wife of President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind; and their daughter Swati.
The guest list comprised Jamaican heads of state, Indian and Jamaican government officials, notable business people, and members of the Indian community in Jamaica.
Custos of St James, Bishop Conrad Pitkin said grace.
In his remarks, Sir Patrick Allen noted that India has shown an “unswerving commitment to Jamaica’s development”.
“Jamaica has the potential to be the knowledge highway in this region, catering to the needs of the large economies nearby. And in doing that, Jamaica will always find a willing partner in India,” said President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind.
Notable business moguls and members of the Indian community in Jamaica Gordon and Diana Tewani
From left: Physician Dr Guna Muppuri, his wife Vishnu, and business couple Anitha and Bhasker Share
Sharing pleasantries during cocktails were JN Group Chief Executive Officer Earl Jarrett (left); politician Wykeham McNeill (right); Former Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President Michael Fennell, and his wife, Kathleen.
From left: Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority Director-General Nari Williams-Singh; his wife and Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission Trisha Williams-Singh; businessman Jack Khemlani and his wife, Diya; businessman Ajay Lohana and his wife, Kirti; physician Dr Sonali Thakurani and her businessman husband Bobby; and businessman Rosh Ramchandani.
President of the Republic of India Ram Nath Kovind (left) and Jamaican Governor General Sir Patrick Allen shared many mirthful moments during Tuesday evening’s State Dinner held at King’s House.
Cutting elegant figures inside the King’s House ballroom were Chief Justice of Jamaica Bryan Sykes and his wife, Dr Annette Crawford-Sykes, deputy dean, Faculty of Medicine, The University of the West Indies, Mona.

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