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WorldAsiaSignificance of the President's visit to Suriname

Significance of the President’s visit to Suriname

– Dr. Dilip Agnihotri

The message of President Draupadi Murmu’s visit to Suriname spread to many countries. These include countries where a large number of people of Indian origin have been residing for the past six generations. They have maintained their civilizational culture. Like Mauritius, Suriname also celebrates Migrants Day. The temporary residence of Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, is called Aapravasi Ghat. Aapravasi Day is celebrated every November 2. Suriname Migrants Day is celebrated on 5 June. Draupadi Murmu was the chief guest of the function. He was awarded the highest honor of Suriname.

Suriname President Chandrikaprasad Santokhi had visited India in January this year. He suggested India to open Hindi teaching institutes in Caribbean countries. He called for India to set up institutes for training in film, yoga, Ayurveda, spiritual lifestyle, information technology and skill development in the Caribbean region. For this, he had promised to get land in his country.

A few years ago, with the efforts of the Modi government, the Suriname Memorial was built on the banks of the Hooghly River. It has the same idols of Babba and Mai as in Suriname. The statue is a replica of the Baba and Mai monument in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, symbolizing the first Indian man and woman to set foot on Suriname. This statue in Parimaribo marks the spot where the first Indian laborers entered Suriname on June 5, 1873, on the ship Lalla Rukh. These are the countries with which India’s relations are based on fraternity. Despite the great geographical distance, the emotional attachment remains. Suriname is one such country. It has been decorated by people from India. It was the people who went from India many generations ago as laborers to make this land fit for human habitation. Today all modern resources are available here.

The visit of President Draupadi Murmu to Suriname can be seen in several contexts. It includes economic, social and cultural aspects. The relation between India and Suriname on social basis is about one and a half century old. Before the First War of Independence, the British had started sending laborers from Eastern Uttar Pradesh to Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius. This sequence continued for about seventy years. He was sent there as an indentured laborer.

Despite the passage of many generations, the people here do not want to forget their association with India. India feels happy and proud when everyone from the common citizen to the President finds the village of their ancestors. The President’s visit to Suriname is aimed at strengthening India’s bilateral relations with the South American country. This is Murmu’s first foreign visit after assuming office in July last year. She reached Paramaribo in Suriname. The President was received at the airport by Suriname President C Santokhi. The President held talks with top leaders in Suriname. She also met a section of the Indian diaspora.

People of Indian origin constitute more than 27 percent of the population of Suriname. President Murmu gave Made in India chocolates to the children of Suriname. President Draupadi Murmu arrived in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname, to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Suriname. He held delegation level talks with his counterpart Chandrikaprasad Santokhi. The two Presidents discussed ways to deepen India-Suriname relations and discussed a wide range of areas including defence, agriculture, IT and capacity building. India and Suriname exchanged four MoUs in various fields including health and agriculture.

Apart from the usual bilateral meetings between President Murmu and his counterpart, his interactions with the common people in Suriname stood out. President Murmu addressed the Indian community in Suriname. The President expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the talks between the two countries. He also expressed happiness over the sixth generation of Surinamese being given overseas Indian cards.

The President interviewed a retrospective of the incident of Indians reaching Suriname through the sea route on the ship Lallrukh. He paid floral tributes to the statue of Mahatma Gandhi. He also paid homage at the Baba and Mai statue, the Lady Shranan Memorial and the Galburn Hidden Memorial. Visited Lallarukh Museum and offered prayers at Arya Diwakar Temple and Shri Vishnu Temple. President Murmu was also briefed on the Inter-Religious Council of Suriname. India-Suriname relations have been strengthened by this visit of the President. It is important in many ways. Many places in Suriname are going to give the feel of Mini India. This cultural aspect was also included in the President’s visit.

(The author is a freelance commentator.)

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