President Droupadi Murmu met her Suriname counterpart Chandrikapersad Santokhi on June 5 and discussed ways to deepen bilateral cooperation in several areas including defence, IT and capacity building as the two sides exchanged four MoUs in various fields including health and agriculture.
Ms. Murmu, who arrived in Suriname on Sunday on a three-day state visit — her first since assuming office in July last year, received a warm welcome from President Santokhi at the Presidential palace in Paramaribo.
President Murmu held delegation level talks with President Santokhi.
"Both the Presidents discussed ways to deepen India-Suriname relations and held wide ranging discussions on multiple areas including defence, agriculture, IT and capacity building," her office said.
India and Suriname exchanged four MoUs in various fields including health and agriculture.
"Special covers of stamps to mark 150 years of arrival of Indians in Suriname were presented to President Droupadi Murmu on the occasion. The President symbolically presented a box of medicines to President @CSantokhi as a token of India's donation of emergency medicines to Suriname," her office said in a tweet.
Later, President Murmu and President Santokhi witnessed a beautiful enactment of arrival of the first group of Indians in the South American nation aboard the Lalla Rookh by local artists. She inaugurated a simulated village with model habitats, artists and actors depicting the daily life of the early Indian origin communities of Suriname.
The first ship carrying 452 Indian labourers arrived in Suriname's capital Paramaribo on June 5, 1873. Most of the labourers hailed from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
"President Murmu paid homage at the Baba and Mai monument, a symbolic representation of the first Indian man and woman, who set foot in Suriname. A solemn occasion to remember the sacrifices and struggles of 34,000 Indians who arrived in Suriname!" her office said in another tweet.
She also paid respects at Mama Sranan monument in Suriname.
The monument represents Mama Sranan, or Mother Suriname, holding her five children, the five ethnicities that inhabit Suriname with care and affection.
The Indians, who arrived in Suriname as contract labourers for plantations, have maintained their connection with their roots in India.
"While fully assimilating with the local culture, they continued to cherish, uphold and pass down from one generation to another their traditions, rites and rituals, cuisine, language, and folklore and have made a significant contribution in all spheres to the sustainable development of Suriname," said the Indian embassy in Suriname.
It said Suriname also has the distinction of being the most prominent foreign country in the world in the field of promotion of the Hindi language. The World Hindi Conference 2003 was held in Paramaribo.
In a special gesture, President Santokhi received President Murmu at the airport with full state honours on Sunday.
Mr. Santokhi was in India in January this year as a guest of honour for the 17th Pravasi Bhartiya Divas and had met Ms. Murmu.
The President will be in Suriname till June 6 and visit places of historical and cultural importance. She will also meet a cross-section of the Indian diaspora.
Her visit to the South American country is part of her two-nation tour that will also take her to Serbia.