President Murmu attended an event to commemorate 150 years of the arrival of Indians in Suriname
President Draupadi Murmu has announced the expansion of eligibility criteria for Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards during her visit to Suriname.

She made this announcement while attending the cultural event held in Paramaribo on Monday (June 5, 2023) night commemorating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians to Suriname. Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi was present.

Speaking at the ceremony, President Murmu announced the Government of India’s decision of extending the eligibility criteria for OCI Card up from the fourth generation to the sixth generation of those original Indian immigrants who had arrived in Suriname from Indian territories. President Murmu described the OCI card as an important link to the 150-year-old relationship between India and Suriname. She urged members of the Indian diaspora to stay connected to India and to keep making contributions to the development of both countries.

Speaking to a sizable crowd at Independence Square, President Murmu emphasized the historical significance of this turning point for Suriname. She recounted that a new era in Suriname's history began on June 5, 1873, when the first group of Indians reached the shores of Suriname on the ship Lalla Rookh.

Expressing her appreciation for Suriname's multicultural society and its inclusive nature, President Murmu commended the people of Suriname for fostering unity and inclusiveness among diverse communities. She recognized the strong bonds that exist among members of the Indian diaspora who have held to their roots despite great geographic separation and cultural diversity.

President Murmu noted that the Indian minority in Suriname has assimilated into Surinamese society and is essential to the development of the bilateral relationship.

President Murmu emphasized the shared aspirations for development that underpin bilateral relations between Suriname and India. She emphasized the initiatives taken by both countries to recover their social and economic systems following protracted periods of colonial domination, which helped to forge a bond between them.

Earlier in the day, the President paid homage at the Baba and Mai monument, symbolizing the first Indian man and woman to set foot in Suriname. In addition, she paid her respects at the Mama Sranan monument, which depicts Mother Suriname cradling her five children as a representation of the five ethnic groups that make up the nation.

At a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, President Santokhi presented President Murmu with the highest civilian award in Suriname, the "Grand Order of the Chain of the Yellow Star," in appreciation of her visit and the long-standing ties between the two countries.

In her acceptance speech, President Murmu expressed her thanks for the high honour and emphasized its importance for the 1.4 billion Indians as well as for herself. She dedicated the award to the many Indian-Surinamese generations whose efforts have strengthened the bonds of friendship between India and Suriname.

The President also attended a lunchtime banquet that the President of Suriname hosted in her honour.

In her remarks at the luncheon, President Murmu emphasized India's stand in favour of a global system that is open to all nations and sympathetic to their legitimate interests and concerns. She said that India's assistance to more than 100 nations during the Covid-19 pandemic was given in the spirit of unity. With India being the G-20's current president, it is strengthening its ties with both emerging and established nations, she added.

She recalled that India also organized the Voice of the South Conference in January of this year, with the participation of 125 countries from the Global South, in order to give developing nations and the Global South a stronger voice on topics of relevance to them. She was grateful to Suriname for participating in this event.