The visit will bolster bilateral engagement, commemorate historical milestones, and strengthen ties with the Indian diaspora
President Droupadi Murmu will begin a visit to Suriname from June 4 to June 6 in an effort to further strengthen India's bilateral relations with the nation that is based on deep historical and cultural connections. The last Presidential visit from India to Suriname was that of President Ram Nath Kovind in 2018. President Murmu will also visit Serbia to undertake various official engagements from June 7 onwards. During a special media briefing on Friday (June 2, 2023), Secretary (East) Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Saurabh Kumar provided comprehensive information regarding President Murmu's upcoming state visit to Suriname. HERE IS WHY PRESIDENT MURMU’S VISIT IS SIGNIFICANT 1. The visit, at the invitation of President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, holds tremendous historical significance as it coincides with the celebrations on June 5 to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Suriname. 2. After slavery was abolished in the Netherlands in 1863, the first Indians were brought to Suriname in 1873 to work on plantations. Between 1873 to 1916, when the indenture system was stopped, 34,000 Indians were taken to Suriname, of which around 12,000 came back and the rest remained in Suriname, Secretary (West) Kumar pointed out. Today, the Indian diaspora makes up more than 27% of the population of Suriname. 3. The visit comes within six months of President Santokhi's visit to India from January 7-13 this year to attend the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas as a special guest of honour. He was felicitated with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award in 2021. While in India, in addition to meeting President Murmu, he held talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explore possible areas of collaboration. He also attended the Voice the Global South Summit that was hosted virtually by India. 4. During her stay, President Murmu will engage in official talks with President Santokhi and participate in a series of activities aimed at honouring the contributions of the Indian community and exploring significant sites associated with their history in Suriname. “The Indian diaspora in Suriname acts as a living bridge between the two countries. Despite the passage of time, the diaspora has preserved the customs and traditions it carried from India while adding local flavors,” Secretary (East) Kumar noted. 5. According to Kumar, India-Suriname bilateral relations span sectors such as trade and commerce, development partnership, capacity building, agriculture and people-to-people ties. Suriname has been supportive of India in the international fora. 6. The visit of President Murmu emphasizes both the goodwill between the two countries as well as India's rising importance on the world scene. Moreover, it highlights the importance that India accords to its international diaspora. The visit will add a fresh momentum too and further strengthen India-Suriname bilateral ties, Secretary (East) Kumar said. 7. The strong bilateral relations between India and Suriname have resulted in significant development projects. In a gesture of solidarity, the Government of India sent USD 100,000 worth of protective gear and lifesaving drugs to Suriname in August 2020 to help the country combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, as a show of support, the Indian government sent Suriname 50,000 doses of the Made in India Covishield vaccine in March 2021. 8. According to information available from the Indian Embassy in Paramaribo, Suriname, on the infrastructural front, the Indian government has given its approval to 19 projects under the Quick Impact Projects (QIP) programme. The umbrella agreement on QIP was signed on March 10, 2023, and individual Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) for five priority projects were signed on March 17, 2023. 9. Moreover, Prime Minister Modi had announced a grant of USD 1 million for each CariCom (Caribbean Community) member state for community development projects under the India-UNDP Fund during the India-CariCom summit at the Head of State or Government level in September 2019. 10. A project presented by Suriname, ‘Enhance early warning service delivery to communities of Suriname in order to enhance their resilience to flooding due to excess rainfall’ with an estimated total cost of USD 246,852.71 has been approved, the Indian Embassy said.