Fourth CARICOM/ India Ministerial Meeting
The Fourth CARICOM India Ministerial Meeting was held on 21 April 2023 at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters in Georgetown. The Honourable Hugh Hilton Todd Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation facilitated the convening of the meeting to coincide with the official visit of His Excellency Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to Guyana from 20 – 24, April 2023.
The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson (as the incoming chair of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR)) and the Minister of External Affairs of India, His Excellency Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Minister Johnson was joined by counterpart Foreign Ministers from Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. The Bahamas and Belize were represented at the level of Parliamentary Secretary and Ambassador. The CARICOM Secretary-General was also in attendance.
During the meeting the Foreign Minister focused on trade and economy, agriculture and food security, health and pharmaceuticals, development partnership/capacity building, higher education and culture and people to people exchange. They also discussed common issues of concern on the multilateral agenda such as climate change/disaster resilience and counter terrorism.
Minister Todd addressed three of the issues which are of critical importance both nationally and regionally namely agriculture and food security, energy including renewable energy and climate change/disaster resilience. Under agriculture and food security the Minister highlighted the regional 25% by 2025 initiative, pointing out the need to effect upscaling of production through horticultural experts/specialists in the production of high valued crops such as broccoli and plant propagation. The Minister also highlighted the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana initiative (insurance on agriculture schemes) and solicited India’s support in crafting policy and legislation for agriculture insurance in member states. Given the region’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change, sharing of technology, knowledge and best practices on how to manage an early warning and dissemination system was further identified as another important area for cooperation.
In the area of energy, including renewable energy, Minister Todd underscored energy security as a priority for the region and expressed value in the Indian-led initiative, the International Solar Alliance. He pointed out that Guyana’s energy plan was rooted in the low carbon development strategy 2030 which addressed all aspects of transformational development within Guyana and encouraged evaluation of energy mixes such as natural gas, solar and wind.
With regard to climate change, Minister Todd noted that 85% of Guyana remains standing forest and this contributes to the survival of the region and the world. He revealed that the region looked forward to the operationalising of the loss and damage fund, which was an outcome of COP 27, as an urgent priority and welcomed India’s support in advancing the process. He reiterated Caricom’s commitment to the pursuit of renewable energy options to promote sustainable development and pointed to Guyana’s low carbon development strategy which commits to preserving Guyana’s rainforest to lower carbon emissions, noting that it also includes wider environmental services, water resource management, marine economy and land management.
In concluding the Foreign Ministers committed to enhanced cooperation programme between CARICOM and India. They agreed to the hosting of the CARICOM/India Joint Commission later in 2023 which is the mechanism that would provide the framework for the implementation of the programme of cooperation.
The CARICOM India cooperation framework is three tiered and operates at the level of the CARICOM-India Summit, CARICOM-India Ministerial Meeting and CARICOM-India Joint Commission. Engagement at the Ministerial level provides the opportunity for the deepening of CARICOM- India partnership, through discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest and concern. It demonstrates the intrinsic value of and strong commitment to strengthening south-south cooperation.