India and Kuwait enjoy traditionally friendly relations, rooted in history and have stood the test of time. Geographic proximity, historical trade links, cultural affinities and presence of large number of Indian nationals in Kuwait continue to sustain and nurture this long standing relationship. India has been a natural trading partner of Kuwait and until 1961 Indian Rupee was the legal tender in Kuwait. Till the discovery and development of oil, Kuwait’s economy revolved around its fine harbour and maritime activities which included ship building, pearl diving, fishing and voyages to India on wooden dhows carrying dates, Arabian horses and pearls that were traded for wood, cereals, clothes and spices.
India and Kuwait have had a healthy tradition of high-level contacts, as outlined below:
VVIP visits from India to Kuwait: These have been made by Vice President Dr. Zakir Husain in 1965, by Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1981 and by Vice President Shri Hamid Ansari in 2009. Last visit to Kuwait by an Indian PM was 35 years back.
VVIP visits from Kuwait to India: These have included those by the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah in 1964, the Amir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 1980 and again in 1983 (for the NAM Summit), the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 2006 and the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah in November 2013.
From India, Gen. V.K. Singh (Retd), Minister of State for External Affairs visited Kuwait from 6-7 September 2016 to meet Deputy PM and Foreign Minister, Deputy Foreign Minister, Minister of Social Affairs & Labour and Governor of Farwaniya Governorate. During the visit, Hon’ble Minister also unveiled the life-size bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Embassy complex. Shri E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs visited Kuwait to represent India at the 2nd International Pledging Conference for Syria held on 15 January 2014. He also visited Kuwait twice in 2013 and participated in the first Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) summit held in Kuwait from 14-17 October 2012. Minister of External Affairs, Shri S. M. Krishna visited Kuwait in February, 2010. He visited Kuwait again from 25-27 February 2011, to participate in the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of Independence of Kuwait, 20th anniversary of its Liberation and 5th anniversary of the Amir’s Accession to office. Other recent high-level visits included those of Dr. K. Rahman Khan, Minister of Minority Affairs (11-12 May 2014), Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman Planning Commission (1-3 July 2013), Shri Vayalar Ravi, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, (Nov 2012), Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas, Shri R. P. N. Singh (April 2011), Shri Rahul Gandhi, MP (June 2012) and Shri Yashwant Sinha, MP(Feb 2014).
From Kuwait, Dr Bader Hamad Al-Essa, Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education participated in the UNESCO International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education in New Delhi from 19-20 September 2016. Dr. Abdulmohsen Medeij Al-Medeij, Minister of Commerce &Industry led a business delegation to the Partnership Summit held in Jaipur, Rajasthan on 15-17 January 2015, as well as to the 4th India-Arab Partnership Conference held in New Delhi on 26-27 November 2014. Sheikh Thamer Ali Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, President of the National Security Bureau of Kuwait, visited India from February 17-19, 2014 and held security dialogue with his Indian counterpart. The Prime Minister of Kuwait accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) & Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Minister of Oil Mr. Mustafa Jassem Al-Shimali, Minister of Commerce and Industry Mr. Anas Khalid Al-Saleh, senior officials and business leaders visited India from 7-10 November 2013. The Kuwaiti PM held bilateral discussions with our President, Vice-President and Prime Minister. He also met Ministers of External Affairs, Finance, Commerce & Industry, Petroleum & Natural Gas and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson. Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah visited India from 10-13 March 2013. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah, Minister of Oil and Minister of Information of Kuwait, visited India from 25-28 September 2010 and inaugurated the “Sabah Cultural Library” at the India Arab Cultural Centre in Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi.
Historically, Indo-Kuwaiti relations have always had an important trade dimension. India has consistently been among the top ten trading partners of Kuwait. Total bilateral trade with Kuwait during 2015-16 was US$ 6.2 billion. While India’s imports from Kuwait were US$ 4.96 billion (POL accounted for US$ 4.05 billion) which plummeted by 63%, largely due to drop in oil prices coupled with cut down in volume of oil import from Kuwait. India’s exports to Kuwait grew by 4% (US$ 1.24 billion) in 2015-16 vis-à-vis 2014-15. India’s exports to Kuwait included food items, cereals, textiles, garments, electrical and engineering equipment, machinery and mechanical appliances, cars, trucks, buses, tyres, chemicals, jewellery, handicrafts, metal products, iron and steel, etc. The Embassy in association with the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce & Industry organized an “Indian Food, Herbal & Handicrafts Exhibition” in Kuwait on 18 March 2015. CII with the participation of 50 companies from India organized an India Pavilion at the Big 5 Exhibition in Kuwait on 14-16 September 2015. ONGC participated for the first time in the Kuwait Oil and Gas Show 2015 held in Kuwait from 12-14 October 2015. The Embassy organized a Conference of EPC companies in Kuwait on 9 December 2015. The Federation of Indian Export Organizations with the participation of 11 Indian companies organized an “INDIA PAVILION” at ‘The First Kuwait International Trade Fair’, in Kuwait from 21-27 February 2016.
Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC): Following the visit of the Amir of Kuwait to India in 2006, both sides agreed to set up an “India-Kuwait Joint Ministerial Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation”. The 2nd JMC meeting was held in New Delhi in July 2008. The 3rd JMC meeting may be held in the second half of 2016 in Kuwait.
Foreign Office Consultations (FOCs): While the 1st FOCs between India and Kuwait were held in New Delhi on 7 May 2012, the 2nd FOCs were held in Kuwait on 11 September 2014.
Indian companies in Kuwait: Indian PSUs like TCIL, LIC (International), LIC Housing Finance, New India Assurance Company, Oriental Insurance Company, Air India Ltd. (Air India and Air India Express) have offices in Kuwait. During the last two years, Indian EPC companies viz. Larsen & Toubro, Shapoorji Pallonji, Dodsal, Punj Lloyd, Simplex Projects, Essar, Kalpataru etc. were awarded EPC contracts worth over US$ 6 billion in Kuwait. The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) is executing Kuwait Oil Company (KOC)’s soil remediation project worth US$ 39 million.
Kuwaiti Investment in India: Kuwaiti investment in India has been largely indirect through portfolio managers. Much of it has gone to India through international investment companies or through Mauritius, Singapore or other countries providing tax breaks. So far, investments in India are over US$ 3.5 billion, of which US$ 3 billion is by Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). In December 2015, KIA announced an investment of US$ 300 million in GMR Infrastructure Ltd. Earlier, in October 2015, KIA made a substantial investment in the Interglobe Aviation’s (Indigo Airlines) IPO. In 2013, KIA had made an investment of US$ 5.37 million in the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. Other significant Kuwaiti presence in India includes those by Alghanim Group of Kuwait; the KAPICO group; National Aviation Services; Agility Logistics, Hasibat Holding Co, KGA Group, KCIC, KIPCO, Global Investment House, Kuwait Finance House etc. India related funds launched in Kuwait include India Fund (October 2005); Tijari India Fund (December 2006); India Equity Fund (January 2007); Kuwait Indian Holding Company; India Private Equity Fund; 3rd Real Estate Islamic Fund (May 2007); and Mayur Hedge Fund (August 2008).
Hydrocarbon sector: Kuwait remains a reliable supplier of crude oil &LPG to India, meeting our crucial energy needs. To discuss and expand co-operation in the hydrocarbon sector, the 4th meeting of the India-Kuwait JWG on Hydrocarbon was held in New Delhi on 15-16 September 2015.
Civil Aviation: Air India operates flights between Kuwait and Ahmedabad, Chennai, Goa & Hyderabad; Air India Express has flights between Kuwait and Kochi, Kozhikode & Mangalore; Jet Airways has 2 flights a day between Mumbai and Kuwait, while Kuwait Airways has flights from Kuwait to Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Mumbai & Thiruvananthapuram. National Aviation Services, Kuwait, has been handling contracts for 5 Indian airports.
Maritime Summit: A 10-member Kuwaiti delegation led by Sheikh Youssef Al-Sabah, Director General, Kuwait Port Authority participated in the Maritime India Summit in Mumbai from 14-16 April 2016.
S&T: India and Kuwait have signed an S&T Agreement in April 2009. A delegation from Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) visited India from 18-22 November 2013 and signed a Programme of Cooperation with Department of Science & Technology and an MOU with CSIR. An 8-member delegation from CSIR and Ministry of Earth Sciences visited Kuwait on 14-16 April 2014. An 8-member delegation from KISR visited India from 25-26 May 2015 and held meetings with CSIR.
Medical cooperation: India and Kuwait have signed an MOU on Medical Cooperation on April 23, 2012 at New Delhi. A Joint Working Group on Medical Cooperation was set up and its first meeting was held in Kuwait in November 2013. To streamline the recruitment of nurses from India for work in Kuwait Asstt. Undersecretary Dr. Jamal Al Harbi and Dr Mahmoud Abdulhadi of Kuwaiti Health Ministry visited Kerala on April 15, 2016 and met the Kerala Chief Minister and NORKA Minister Shri K.C. Joseph.
Education: An “India Study Centre” at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Kuwait University was set up in December 2006. 20 Indian Schools in Kuwait are affiliated to our Central Board of Secondary Education where around 46,000 Indian students study. An Educational Exchange Program on Cooperation in Education and Learning (2013-16) was signed in November 2013.
Youth Affairs & Sports: A two-member Youth Delegation from Kuwait visited India from 9-15 March 2016 under the Youth Exchange Programme.
Cultural Relations: There is interest in Indian Culture and there have been regular exchanges in these fields. A “Festival of India in Kuwait” was held in Kuwait in 2009. Executive Programme for Cultural and Information Exchanges (2013-16) was signed in 2013. Renowned Indian artistes viz. Niladri Kumar and Ustad Shujaat Husain Khan (Sitar), Salil Bhatt (Veena), Kala Ramnath (Violin), Rupak Kulkarni (Flute), Yogesh Samsi (Tabla), Kathak & Odissi dance troupe of Ms. Parwati Dutta Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (guitar), Ms. Amita Dalal (Sitar) and Himanshu Mahant (Tabla) and Ms. Sonam Kalra’s Fusion Group performed in Kuwait. Bhangra Groups sponsored by ICCR performed in Kuwait in 2015. The 2nd International Yoga Day was celebrated in the Embassy on 24 June 2016. A 4-member delegation from Kuwait attended the two day 'International Conference on Yoga for Body and Beyond’ organized by the Ministry of AYUSH from 22-23 June 2016 at New Delhi.
A three-member Kuwaiti delegation led by Asstt Director General of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) Dr. Bader Al-Duweesh participated/represented the Kuwaiti Information Minister Sheikh Salman Sabah Al-Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah in the World Cultural Festival, organized by the Art of Living Foundation from 11-13 March 2016 in New Delhi. A delegation of Kuwait Journalist Association led by its Chairman Ahmed Yousuf Behbehani visited India from 14-18 May 2012. Kuwaiti Embassy in cooperation with ICCR organized the “Kuwait Cultural Week” from 15-19 May 2012 at New Delhi and Jaipur, which included joint arts and crafts exhibition, lectures at Jamia Milia Islamia University and folklore performance by Kuwait Television Troupe.
There are approx. 225 Indian associations registered with the Embassy. These associations organize regularly socio-cultural programmes for the benefit of their members.
Agreements: Prominent amongst the various bilateral agreements signed are: Reciprocal Protection of Investment (2001); Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (2004); Extradition (2004); Juridical and Judicial Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters (2005); MoU on Labour, Employment and Manpower Development (2007); Scientific and Technological Cooperation (2009); Cultural and Information Exchanges (2009); Education and Learning Cooperation (2009); MoU on Medical Cooperation (2012); Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons (2013); MoU between Foreign Service Institute and the Saud N. Al-Sabah Kuwait Diplomatic Institute (2013); MOU on S&T Cooperation between CSIR and Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR); MoU on Sports & Youth Affairs (2013); MOU on cooperation between KISR and Ministry of Earth Sciences (2014); MOU between ISRO and KISR (2015).
Indian Community: The presence of about 9 lakh Indian community members in Kuwait (the largest expatriate community in Kuwait) form an important dimension of our bilateral ties with oil-rich Kuwait. They are present in all segments of society in Kuwait and are considered largely as disciplined, hard working, and law-abiding. The total remittance from Kuwait to India is estimated at US $ 4.8 billion annually. The Embassy has set up an ‘Indian Workers’ Welfare Centre” in September 2009 which provides a labour complaint redressal mechanism and accommodation for domestic workers in distress, a work contract attestation system, a toll free 24x7 telephonic helpline for Indian domestic workers, a free legal advice clinic, and a help desk to guide all Indian nationals in respect of issues being faced by them. In June 2015, the Mission introduced e-Migrate system for on-line attestation of work-contracts and till 30 June 2016, about 21,000 foreign employers in Kuwait have been registered with the e-Migrate system.
The Embassy is providing prompt consular, passport, attestations, visa and community welfare services. During the year 2015, a total of 206,466 services were given by the Mission including 89,392 passports, 94,363 attestations and 13,259 visas in a most expeditious manner. To facilitate repatriation of distressed Indian nationals, 3,923 Emergency Certificates (travel document) were issued by the Embassy in 2015 (since January to May 2016- 2,707 ECs have been issued due to arrest/detention of Indians for deportation following security checking) and during the period the Mission attested 90,498 employment contracts (male domestic, company- individual and bulk recruitment together). Further, a sum of KD 39,443 (Rs. 86.77 lakh) was spent from ICWF to assist 935 distressed Indian workers for issue of air-tickets, token financial assistance, air-lifting of patients (wheel chair and stretcher borne) and transportation of mortal remains to India. During In 2015, Embassy registered the deaths of 611 Indian nationals in Kuwait. The Mission has been arranging transportation of mortal remains within 3-4 days in case of normal death and two weeks or so in the event of unnatural death needing police investigation and post-mortem. On receipt of claims of compensation for death and service dues a total of Rs. 6.33 crore was sent to India for disbursement to the next-of-kin.
Useful Resources: Embassy website: www.indembkwt.org;
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com / indianembassykuwait;
Indian community web portal:www.indiansinkuwait.com