Transcript of Special Briefing by Secretary (East) on the visit of President to Suriname (June 06, 2023)

June 06, 2023

Shri Rajesh Uike, JS (XP) : Good afternoon everyone, I welcome you all to this special media briefing and ongoing visit of Rashtrapati ji to Suriname and for that I have the pleasure to introduce you sitting on the dais, Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East), Shri Ajay Kumar Singh, Press Secretary to the President, Shri G. V. Srinivas, Additional Secretary (LAC Division) and Dr. S. Balachandran, Ambassador of India to Suriname. Sir, now I would like to invite you for your opening remarks, following that we will take few questions.

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Good afternoon and Namaskar to our friends from the media. As you all know, Honorable Rashtrapati ji, Shrimati Draupadi Murmu is on a State visit to Suriname from 4th to 6th of June at the invitation of President of Suriname, His Excellency Chandrikapersad Santokhi. This is President Murmu's first State visit. Yesterday on arrival at Johan Adolf Pengel Airport, Rashtrapati ji was received very warmly by President Santokhi, who was accompanied by senior Ministers of his cabinet. She was accorded a ceremonial welcome. This morning, Rashtrapati ji was again accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace. She held a restricted meeting with President Santokhi, which was followed by delegation level talks. President Santokhi deeply condoled the tragic train accident in Odisha and said that their hearts are with the people of India. He referred to Rashtrapati ji as a special guest and his sister. He recalled fondly of his visit to Indore in January this year and he conveyed his greetings to Prime Minister Modi. The two Presidents reviewed bilateral relations in all fields, including political, trade and economic, development partnership and people-to-people ties. Specific areas of cooperation such as ICT, agriculture, defense, health and pharmaceuticals and ayurveda were discussed. Both expressed the desire to give greater content to the traditional warm and friendly ties between the two countries.

Let me tell you about a few announcements which Rashtrapati ji made. Rashtrapati ji made the following significant announcements which would further strengthen India-Suriname relations. One, she mentioned the extension of the OCI card facility to the fifth and sixth generation persons of Indian origin, who are in Suriname. This was a long pending demand of the Indian diaspora in Suriname. Number two, India's commitment to socio-economic development projects in Suriname was announced by her. These would include assistance in the establishment of an old age home for senior citizens. Also, five quick impact projects will be launched shortly and an additional one, focusing on promotion of women entrepreneurship by supporting rice cultivation has been added to these five. Visit of an Indian delegation to Suriname to discuss cooperation in the area of defense and capacity building of Suriname Armed Forces. This is the third important announcement. Fourth one is India's contribution to development of small and medium scale enterprises in Suriname through supply of machinery from India as a grant towards some selected specific projects. And lastly, organization of festival of India in Suriname later this year to coincide with the celebrations to commemorate the 150 years of arrival of Indians in Suriname. Rashtrapati ji also thanked President Santokhi for the transfer of the title of land earlier gifted to India by the Government of Suriname which would enable India to build its diplomatic complex including Indian Cultural Centre in Suriname. There were several documents and Memorandum of Understanding also signed during the visit. I will just give you a quick rundown on these. The first one is related to pharmaceuticals and MOU between drug regulators for cooperation in the field of medical product regulation, exchange of good practices and capacity building. And the second one again deals with the pharmaceutical sector. This is recognition of Indian pharmacopoeia by the Suriname side which is expected to facilitate the sale of pharma products manufactured by India in Suriname, as per Indian pharmacopoeia standards. A joint work plan in agriculture and allied sectors for the period 2023-27 under an existing MOU was also signed and exchanged. And the last one is the buyer's credit which India had extended to Suriname that has been restructured. At a small ceremony following the talks, President Santokhi presented President Murmu a commemorative first day cover for stamps marking the 150th year of the arrival of Indians in Suriname. President Murmu on her part handed over to President Santokhi, a consignment of essential medicines for supplementing Suriname's flood relief efforts which is worth around Rs 5 crores. It was a symbolic handing over and the actual consignment is on its route.

Apart from these restricted and delegation level talks and the announcements and the MOU's signed, let me give you a sense of the other elements of Rashtrapati ji's program. Rashtrapati ji and President Santokhi after the signing ceremony participated in the following programs. One is they witnessed the traditional enactment which was reminiscent of the arrival of first Indians to Suriname on board the vessel ‘Lalla Rookh’ at a marine trap. Both leaders recounted the pioneering spirit of the indentured workers and inaugurated a simulated village modeled on the original habitat of the Indians who had come to Suriname. It was a display of their lifestyle and the adversarial circumstances in which they lived and gradually made their way in this country. Second is that both the leaders garlanded the statues of Baba and Mai which symbolizes the arrival of first Indian man and women in Suriname. They also planted an Indian sandalwood sapling brought by President Murmu from India to commemorate this special occasion. And the last part was that in a befitting tribute to Suriname's multicultural society, the two Presidents took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the ‘Mama Sranan’ monument which depicts a caring mother holding five children representing the five different ethnic groups of this country. President Santokhi hosted a banquet in honor of Rashtrapati ji this afternoon. Before the banquet, President Santokhi in an elegant ceremony decorated Rashtrapati ji with the highest civilian honor of Suriname, Grand Order of the Yellow Star. President Murmu is the fourth recipient of this honor and the first Indian to be conferred this award. This honor exemplifies the deep-rooted bilateral ties between our two countries and the immense goodwill that our peoples hold for each other. President Santokhi said that the award is for the achievement which President has had as a lady leader in India. Accepting the awards, Rashtrapati ji said that the award honors the 1.4 billion Indians and the memory of the indentured workers who contributed to the building of Suriname and to the people who have contributed to strengthening the relationship between India and Suriname. She also mentioned that it is a testimony to all the women, particularly from the underprivileged sections of our society. Now the program for today has not been completed and very soon Rashtrapati ji would be involved in the remaining parts of our program. So I thought I would just mention these to you. Soon, in half an hour or one hour's time, she would be going to pay respect at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi ji along with President Santokhi and Janey Tetary. Both of them of course represent activity and activism against the colonial power and stood up for the oppressed sections of the society. Later in the evening, the two Presidents will witness a cultural procession to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians and that would be followed by another cultural program in which both the Presidents would be participating. So this is how the President's program looks like for today. (Inaudible) So overall, the decisions were very good. President Santokhi, I think, on several occasions during the conversations, used Hindi words, Hindi forms of greeting to the Rashtrapati ji. As I mentioned, referred to her as his sister and the same sentiment and warmth was reciprocated by Rashtrapati ji and she of course thanked President Santokhi for all the hospitality and warmth which she had received. President Santokhi of course, I think again on several occasions made a reference to his visit to Indore and how well he was treated out there and specifically said that his respects and regards should be carried back to Prime Minister Modi. So this I think is the substance and the flavor of the meetings which took place today. I will be happy to answer if there are any questions.

Shri Rajesh Uike, JS (XP) : Please introduce yourself and the organisation.

Himani Rana: Good afternoon sir, I am Himani Rana from Akashwani. Sir we have seen that President Santokhi was... he applauded the Indian pharma sector for producing affordable medicines and he also requested President Droupadi Murmu to encourage the Indian pharma sector to come to Suriname and set up the manufacturing units here. Sir what steps do you forsee in the near future in this regard?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): You want to take a few more?

Shri Rajesh Uike, JS (XP) : Yeah.

Sudhir: This is Sudhir from the Zee News. Also you talked about the area of discussion on ICT, agriculture and defense. As you know that we are very strongly going in making India independent. So are there any plans in the defense sector to collaborate with us on this in Suriname?

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Yeah, so on the pharma sector as I mentioned, we do export a lot of pharmaceuticals to Suriname and to the rest of Latin and Central America also. But with the signing of these two agreements today between recognition of the Indian pharmacopoeia by the Suriname side and between the drug regulators of the two countries, I think what would happen is that the export of Indian drugs to Suriname is likely to become easier and it would open the country to Indian drugs. As far as manufacturing and investment is concerned, I think the message of President Santokhi was very clear. He would like to see Indian investors come and invest in Suriname including in the pharmaceutical sector. He also mentioned that the investors could use Suriname as the hub and look at the Caribbean and other market in the vicinity. What would need to be done of course is that to take the message to Indian industry and for that separate initiatives are already underway. In August, we are planning to have an India-Latin America Business Conclave, which would provide an opportunity to convey the messages including this message and the other attractive features of the Latin American market. And we have other mechanisms like JCM, Joint Consultative Mechanisms. Once discussions take place under that and the Foreign Minister was telling me that when he comes to India next, he would like to bring a business delegation with him. So what it entails is greater business to business interaction for activity to pick up on the business side.

Sudhir ji, you asked might refer to specific sectors of the cooperation ICT, agriculture, defense. Defense is an area of cooperation in which President Santokhi had expressed interest when he had come to Indore in January. We have had some of the senior officials who have visited India for Defense Expo also to see our capacity. We are focusing on capacity building, training and also exports from India. A delegation from India, from our Defense Ministry would be visiting this country and all these aspects would be discussed once the delegation is out here.

Shri Rajesh Uike, JS (XP) : I see no further questions. Sir, with your permission now I conclude this special media briefing. Thank you very much.

Shri Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East): Thank you.


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