Jamaica's top man in India sees big things ahead
High commissioner of Jamaica to India Jason Keats Hall speaks at an event.

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Acknowledging India's commitment to development, Jason Keats Hall, Jamaica's first high commissioner to the world's most populous country, is positive that strengthening the bilateral relationship between both countries will greatly benefit citizens through growth opportunities.

Hall, who was appointed to the post in 2021, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview that one of his main roles is to further facilitate the decades-old friendship between the countries.

"My role here is to represent Jamaica's efforts to foster, facilitate, and fortify the bonds of friendship and cooperation in this critical relationship as we move to implement and build on our national development goals for a secure, sustainable, and prosperous future," he said.

The high commissioner, who is based in the Indian capital city of Dehli, also covers the nations of Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, and Sri Lanka.

High commissioner of Jamaica in India Jason Keats Hall.

He pointed out that Jamaica and India are no strangers as history states that Indians first landed in Jamaica over 177 years ago. In addition to that, the countries have maintained diplomatic relations for some 61 years.

He told the Sunday Observer that the possibilities of furthering the partnership are endless, with developments taking place in both countries.

"Jamaica and India share not only longstanding, robust, uninterrupted diplomatic relations, but we also have an inextricable historic connection dating back to the 1840s when Indians first came to our shores. And we continue to see Indians coming to Jamaica, making increasingly positive contributions to society and our overall economic development," Hall stated.

He continued, "India and Jamaica have collaborated extensively at the multilateral level, owing to shared principles and pursuits and membership in the United Nations, its organs, and specialised bodies and inter-governmental coalitions such as the G-77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, and of course the Commonwealth."

High commissioner of Jamaica to India Jason Keats Hall.

At the same time, the high commissioner told the Sunday Observer that he wishes to see the facilitation of additional opportunities to "increase technical, economic, academic and cultural cooperation that will not only build local capacity, but enable Jamaica to achieve its development goals and participate in and benefit from a broader and more diverse global economy".

From an educational standpoint, Hall said that Jamaicans seeking educational pursuits internationally may also add India to their list of countries. He noted that studying in India — which ranks highly among countries with the best education systems in the world — may give many Jamaicans the chance to experience another culture and access inexpensive undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities.

"I want to highlight India's efforts in positioning themselves as the knowledge capital of the world. The standard and quality of tertiary education here are particularly high, and aspiring Jamaican students should seriously consider pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate studies in India as there are hundreds of universities that welcome foreign students from all over the world at a fraction of the cost of education in North America or Europe. Additionally, there [are] several available scholarships," Hall said.

Hall's mission in India, as with the other diplomatic missions around the world, is mandated to implement Jamaica's foreign policy, manage its foreign policy, and promote the island's interests overseas. He pointed out that with India's current economy, fostering a partnership is a step in the right direction for Jamaica.

Jamaica's High Commissioner to India Jason Keats Hall poses with former President of Nepal Bidya Devi Bhandari.

"Last month India matched and surpassed China, becoming the world's largest country in population terms — 1.425 billion — one sixth of the planet. Interestingly, more than 65 per cent of the population is under 35 years old.

"From a trade and investment standpoint the importance of the Indian economic outlook cannot be overstated when we think of the potential synergies and opportunities for Jamaica," said the high commissioner.

In the meantime, Hall told the Sunday Observer that the India Government has always played a role in the development of small island developing states. The country is widely known for its solar energy and sustainable infrastructure, he noted.

"As a strong and reliable advocate for the Global South and a key development partner for many countries, India's enabling and inclusive foreign policy outlook, summarised as Vasudhaiva Kutumnakam's "The world is one family", addresses critically important global issues such as climate resilience, food and energy security, health care, poverty reduction, countering terrorism, and sustainability — to list but a few. India plays a leadership role in sustainability and climate, and serves as the world's 'pharmacy', providing affordable, high-quality medicine as well as health care — especially critical surgical operations — to billions of people," Hall said.

He added, "India has always been a leading voice, addressing the concerns and aspirations of developing countries; prioritising concerted action towards confronting global challenges such as global pandemics, climate change and economic crises; and lending support, in different ways, toward the attainment of the sustainable development goals."

Among his other diplomatic duties, Hall told the Sunday Observer he is also seeking to generate awareness of Brand Jamaica as a destination to invest and do business in, as well as to visit.

"Unlike trade between Jamaica and India, the awareness deficit goes both ways, and despite the long history between us there is a paucity of awareness of Jamaica in India as there is of India in Jamaica. I want to recognise the tremendous work being undertaken by my counterpart, Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica Rungsung Masakui, with whom I work very closely," Hall said.

He continued, "Cultural diplomacy is one of our strong suits, and our soft power is continuously leveraged and in play to foster meaningful people-to-people exchanges at all levels. Sport plays an extremely important role in what Jamaica does abroad, especially when it comes to cricket. Our achievements go a long way, generating that 'T O M awareness' from a Brand Jamaica/West Indies standpoint. The mere mention of Chris Gayle elicits immediate recall, granting in some cases 'access', as does Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce."

BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON Staff reporter claytonr@jamaicaobserver.com

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