Monday, April 22, 2024

Realities of US, Caricom friendship


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AS IF competing with his vice-president colleague, Joseph Biden, in demonstrating the warmth of America’s friendship for countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Secretary of State John Kerry was earlier this week wowing Jamaicans with the warm assurance that the United States “is proud to call Jamaica “a partner and friend”.
In the world of diplomacy, we are accustomed to encouraging expressions about “friendship” and “partnership” between and among nation states. But it’s quite rare for the world’s sole superpower that expediently reminds us of our location in its “backyard”, to do what its current Secretary of State did in Kingston on Tuesday:
Mr Kerry declared that the United States was “proud” to call little Jamaica “a partner and friend”. The occasion was his participation in the official programme for Jamaica’s 51st anniversary of political independence – the first English-speaking Caribbean state to be free from British colonialism. The second three weeks later this month, was Trinidad and Tobago.
Well, just over two months ago when Vice-President Biden found himself being involved in virtual back-to-back official visits to Port-of-Spain with China’s President Xi Jingping, he was quite anxious to reveal “happiness” to be in the birthplace of the original musical sound of the 20th century that flow from instruments made from old oil drums – the steelband.
So before leaving after his two-day visit to underscore “friendship” between the United States and that CARICOM member state, Mr Biden was enthusiastically telling the media – undoubtedly for benefit of host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar’s government – to “tell President Obama to allow me to come again and for a longer visit …”
The cynics may perhaps place the enthusiasm displayed by Biden in Port-of-Spain and now Kerry in Kingston as high-profile public relations diplomacy. But let’s face the cold, hard political reality: Superpower United States does not really have to engage in political flattery to secure the friendship of either Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago
Not just the two but all of the other 13 member countries of CARICOM would more than welcome being hailed as “friend and partner” of the United States, often caricatured as “Uncle Sam”.
Of more relevance these countries would prefer being treated in practical terms as “friends” and “partners”.  
 There is no equality between rich and powerful states and those that are small, poor and vulnerable. But the appreciation for friendship, separately expressed with public warmth by Vice-President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry, would always be welcome by the governments and people of CARICOM.
After all, this sub-region of the Greater Caribbean strongly embraces the sentiment eloquently expressed years ago by Barbados’ “Father of Independence” and one of the primary architects of CARICOM, in being “friends of all, enemies to none”. Happy 51st independence anniversary Jamaica!
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist;


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