During the course of the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2017, our NRI Achievers’ team managed to snag some quality time with His Excellency Shri Michael Ashwin Satyandre Adhin, the 36-year old Vice President of the South American Republic of Suriname, serving since 2015.  One of the youngest to hold a vice presidential post of any country, he was present in Bengaluru as the Special Guest for the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.   His family apropos harks back to its Indian roots of more than one century ago, with the grandfather of his grandfather having migrated to the Caribbean from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  Playing the gracious host to Rajeev Gupta, he spoke about India Suriname relations, business and trade, and of course also expressed personal pleasure – even as he was on a 11-day visit to the country from where his progenitors originated.  We have crafted a profile of this youngest Indian origin politico for you in this vignette, and much of it is in his own words  …

Speaking to the NRI Achievers team, HE Ashwin Adhin said: “During our meeting with the Indian PM Modi, we talked about how we can bring Ayurveda to the mainstream in Suriname.   Before coming here, I spoke to Shri Nayak, the Minister for AYUSH, among many others. We spoke  about all this in our discussion with PM and other ministers.  We had a meeting with the minister of IT as well.  We intend to discuss all topics of interest to  Suriname as we are aware that there is indeed a lot of potential … we are a natural-resources rich nation and we can easily fulfil the role of a centrally-located hub for India in the Caribbean and South America.  On returning I will speak about all this with my President, and will also engage various stakeholders to take the ancient science of Ayurveda forward in Suriname.”

“We are right now in a recession and have to look towards diversifying our economy, for which we need projects that bring good spinoffs, which is only feasible when you have in place all the elements, such as availability of land, processing power, local capacity, and a viable market. We intend to take the population of Suriname along in this project in any which way we can.  For example, people who have inherited land which is not being used can easily be encouraged to become independent farmers. We’ll then have to facilitate their possession of 1-2 cows, which provide some essential ingredients that go into several Ayurvedic medicines. We also intend to make full use of technology. Like I said, we’re looking for diversification, but the benefits will be mutual. India will establish itself as an exporter of Ayurvedic technology to different sites by exploiting its historical claim on ancient wisdom for healthy living. We can help them achieve this in Caribbean and South America.”

“In Suriname we have a large Indian Diaspora population, whose importance Modi government has rightly been stressing of late.  They are loyal to their ‘Karma bhoomi’, as also emphasized by the PM Modi, their hearts are in India.  And India has all the potential to become a super power and I think you have a good leader now in PM Modi. If you keep going at this momentum you’ll soon be unstoppable. Everywhere in the world there is slowdown but India is growing with 7.1%. You have very great and innovative people. India still has the ‘Sanatan’ philosophy, which is applicable in all times and that’s why I say the spiritual and cultural heritage is more than alive here.  All these aspects that give fulfillment and happiness to the world should be made stronger and India has that potential.  And if you become a super power why not take this spiritual and cultural concept and teach the world something they have missed for a long time.”

Talking to us about PM Modi’s reaction to the meeting, HE Ashwin Adhin said:  “Your PM Modi thanked me, also other ministers appreciated our thoughts and they found it very interesting. I have always drawn inspiration from India’s rich philosophy, but it is important to put it into a modern context.  Sometimes science brings new discoveries; and technology brings new applications to the old principles.“  On whether any agreement and positive outcomes have come out of this meet and visit, he said:  “In a formal sense, yes. There are a few projects where we are working on, for example agricultural capacity building, energy, etc., and all these plans are now being worked on technically so that B2B engagements can start by the next joint meeting, maybe even before that.”

When we commented on his coming quite frequently to India of late, he smiled and shared: “Our engagement with India earlier was not as intensive as it is today. Our President and I both agree on the fact that when you have these big super powers in the world and you see their development, you can as a small country go along with them and see how you can benefit, and they can benefit.  Because we should not forget that there is vast potential in Suriname.  Most of the time we look at energy issues to see how we can develop together.  I told my President that I am willing to personally look at the portfolio for India and he said OK.  In policy, when you want to take seriously a super power, you don’t do it at only the technical level, you take it higher into the political level.  So it was a right decision from our President and that’s the change.  I had been to India two times in one year, and that is in fact a lot.  I made an agenda when Ms. Sushma Swaraj, your minister of External Affairs sent an invitation to me. I will do something that I think will be good for youth Diaspora because that was the topic.  So I took on Ayurveda as a science that has been developing so many years, decades and centuries here.  We will now have to see to it that step-by-step we progress on this and people get the confidence that the things are on the move.

Towards the end, when we asked if he has invited Modi to visit Suriname, the Vice President said that “I have personally conveyed the invitation of my President to Shri Narendra Modi, and I do hope that he plans something soon in the Caribbean and Latin American region so we may have the privilege of hosting him.”

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