Script: Dr. FAZZUR REHMAN SIDDIQUI, Analyst on Middle-East
The two-day visit of Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, Foreign Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs of Kuwait to India recently, is a mark of deepening India-Kuwait ties. The visit is also a testimony to India’s constant engagement with its Gulf neighbours since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014. The Kuwaiti Foreign Minister was in Delhi at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar. Both the Foreign Ministers in their bilateral meeting discussed all aspects of the relationship and political and strategic developments in their respective regions. The visit of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister to India was the first after the new Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah took over as the Emir after the passing away of Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah in October 2020.
Both sides decided to establish a foreign-ministerial level joint commission with the objective of carrying the relationship forward. The meeting of the joint commission called the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) would be held regularly to review the progress in the relationship. The meeting of the commission would be co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of both the countries and attended by senior officials from both sides and experts from concerned fields may also participate to share their opinions.
As per the joint statement, the main focus of the Joint Commission Meeting would be to explore the prospect of further cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, investment, human resources, manpower, finance, skill, culture and science. The meetings would be held alternately in each country. The Joint Commission Meeting may also consider establishing a separate Joint Working Group to discuss the issues such as trade, investment, defence and security.
Over the years, the ties between India and Kuwait have touched a new high. This was particularly visible during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both countries came closer as India sent a team of doctors and other health professionals last year to assist the Kuwaiti government in its fight against the COVID-19. India has also sent India-made COVID vaccine doses to Kuwait. During the early days of COVID in March 2020, the Indian External Affairs Minister and his counterpart had pledged during a telephonic conversation to jointly fight the pandemic. The two sides had agreed to cooperate with each other.
Apart from the latest visit, there have been high-level visits in the past also. Indian Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan had visited Kuwait in October 2020.
During the visit, he had met the new Emir of Kuwait which reflected India‘s desire to continue with the strong relationship. Both India and Kuwait have enjoyed close ties at multiple levels. India is sixth largest importer of oil from Kuwait. Today the total volume of Kuwaiti investments in India is worth US$ 6 billion.
There are numerous factors which have brought both countries closer culturally, politically and economically. Today, around one million Indians are employed in Kuwait in both skilled and semi-skilled sectors like medical, engineering, consultancy, IT, management and other sectors and presently Indian constitute the highest number among all the expatriates living in Kuwait.
This visit has shown that an era of active foreign policy enunciated by Prime Minister Modi is going to continue in future as well. India has a well-defined policy towards its extended neighbours and has an effective blueprint to secure its economic and strategic interest in the region. The visit of the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister to New Delhi assumes significance; as the Gulf region, has been passing through major strategic and political transformations since the Arab uprising of 2011. Kuwait is one of the exceptions which has carved a neutral space for itself in the volatile region. Kuwait’s political and economic stability along with its neutral status and India’s own growing economic strength and a principled foreign policy could help each other in deepening their historical ties further.