On June 5, 2023, in Paramaribo, the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu, and President Chandrikapersad Santokhi of Suriname attended a cultural festival commemorating 150 years of Indian settlement in Suriname.
The President told the crowd gathered in Paramaribo’s Independence Square that the day marks the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in Suriname, a significant milestone in the country’s history. The first group of Indians arrived on the coast of Suriname aboard the ship Lalla Rookh on that day in 1873, establishing a new chapter in the country’s history.
According to the President, Suriname and India have attempted to reconstruct their economies and social systems following long periods of colonial rule. She stated that bilateral relations between India and Suriname are founded on common development goals.
Suriname, as the President remarked, has embraced all the diverse populations that have arrived and settled there because it is a multicultural country and a land of opportunities. Throughout these years, diverse communities merged to form one family and one country. She praised the Surinamese people for their passion and commitment to unity and inclusion.
The President was pleased to note that the Indian diaspora remains constantly connected to their roots despite great geographical distances, distinct time zones, and different cultural backgrounds. She stated that during the previous 150 years, the Indian community had become an integral part of Suriname’s society and a vital pillar of India’s growing engagement with Suriname.
The President stated that at a time when Suriname is commemorating its forefathers and its ties with India, India stands in solidarity and reverence with Suriname. She announced the decision of the Government of India to expand the qualifying requirements for OCI Cards (Overseas Citizens Cards) from the fourth to the sixth generation of original Indian immigrants who landed in Suriname from Indian territory. She described the OCI card as a crucial link in their 150-year history with India. She urged members of the Indian diaspora to keep working to stay connected to India.
There are numerous parallels between India, which is recognized for its diversity, and Suriname. She said, “The people of both countries could integrate very easily into each other’s societies. I feel like I am at my own home!”.
President Murmu was awarded the highest civilian honor of Suriname, the Grand Order of the Chain of the Yellow Star, by the President of Suriname at a ceremony conducted at the Presidential Palace. In her acceptance address, the president expressed her gratitude to President Santokhi and the Surinamese government.
She stated that this honor is significant not only for her but also for India’s more than 1.4 billion people. She dedicated the award to the successive generations of Indian-Surinamese society as a whole, who have significantly contributed to strengthening ties between the two countries.