President Droupadi Murmu left the national capital for a six-day visit to Suriname and Serbia on Saturday.
This is her maiden visit to Suriname and also her first state visit since assuming office in July 2022.
Earlier, on Friday, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Secretary (East), Saurabh Kumar, informed that President Murmu will travel to Suriname and Serbia from June 4 to 9.
Briefing about the Suriname leg of President Murmu's visit, he said she will be in Suriname on a state visit from June 4-6, at the invitation of Suriname President Chandrikapersad Santokhi.
"This will be her maiden visit to Suriname. Maiden state visit after she assumed the office of President. The visit assumes historical significance as the President will be the chief guest at the 150th-anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Indians in Suriname, which would be celebrated on June 5," the MEA Secretary (East) said during a special briefing on President's visit to Suriname and Serbia.
The President is being accompanied by Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Member of Parliament, Shrimati Rama Devi as well as an official delegation. The President will hold official talks with Suriname President Santokhi.
Saurabh Kumar, during the briefing, said the President "will participate in a number of activities to commemorate the arrival of Indians in Suriname and visit the sites associated with their history in that country. The President will also interact with the Indian community".
"The last presidential visit from India to Suriname was in 2018. India, Suriname relations are warm and friendly and acquire special significance on account of the Indian diaspora, which is over 27 per cent of the Suriname population," the MEA Secretary (East) said.
He said India, Suriname's "bilateral relations span sectors such as trade and commerce, development, partnership, capacity building, agriculture and people to people ties. Suriname has been supportive of India in the international fora".
"The Indian diaspora in Suriname acts as a living bridge between the two countries. Despite the passage of time, the diaspora has preserved the customs and traditions it carried from India while adding local flavours," he added.
"The Republic of Suriname's invitation to the President to be the chief guest shows the goodwill that prevails there for India as well as India's growing influence and stature on the global stage," he said.
"The visit of the President also emphasizes the importance we attach to our relations with Suriname and to the Indian diaspora around the world. The visit will add a fresh momentum too and further strengthen India-Suriname bilateral ties," he added.
In the next leg of her tour, Murmu will visit Serbia, which will start from June 7. She received an invitation from Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
President Murmu's visit to Serbia comes at a time when tensions have been rising in the past week in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Several clashes are being reported with protesters over the installation of ethnically Albanian mayors in a disputed election.
However, Ministry of External Affairs has said India does not recognise the declaration of independence of Kosovo, and that the situation in the country won't affect President Draupadi Murmu's visit to Serbia.
Addressing a special briefing on the President's visit to Suriname and Serbia, MEA's Secretary West Sanjay Verma said, "Well, we are aware of the recent disturbances in Kosovo, which is at the extreme southern tip of Serbia. We have no reason at this point of time, as I say this, to be concerned that those incidents or have any consequence on the state visit of my president, nor have we been suggested otherwise by the hosts."
"On the matter of Kosovo, our stance has been quite clear and consistent that we do not recognise the declaration of independence by Kosovo. We, however, also believe that any differences need to be resolved through dialogue," Verma added.
He said he was hopeful that the disturbances in the country over the last few days are resolved peacefully through talks and that there is a de-escalation of the situation.
Replying to a media query on whether the President's visit was planned before the political crisis, Verma said it was pre-planned.
"For a matter of record, this has been a longstanding invitation. I won't remember exactly how long, but at least over a year, year and a half. I think because of the conflict in Ukraine, it was it had to be rescheduled. And now we think it's a conducive time for this visit to take place," Verma added.
Serbia does not recognise the sovereignty of Kosovo and has the backing of China, Russia and five other EU nations, which also do not recognise the country. (ANI)