India-Kuwait relations are traditionally friendly and rooted in history and have stood the test of time. Geographic proximity, historical trade links, cultural affinities, and the presence of a large number of Indian nationals in Kuwait continue to sustain and nurture this long-standing relationship. Read here to know about the current status of the bilateral ties.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has declared a day of national mourning at the passing away of the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. The Emir had ruled the oil-rich country for three years.
Till the discovery and development of oil, Kuwait’s economy revolved around its fine harbor and maritime activities which included shipbuilding, 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.
The year 2021-22 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Kuwait, officially known as the State of Kuwait, is a small but wealthy country located at the northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East.
Kuwait gained independence from British protection in 1961.
In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, leading to the Gulf War. It was liberated by a coalition of forces in 1991.
- Kuwait is situated in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by Iraq to the north and northwest, Saudi Arabia to the south, and the Persian Gulf to the east.
- Kuwait City is the capital and largest city of Kuwait. It is the political, cultural, and economic center of the country.
- Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. The head of state is the Emir, and the political system involves a hereditary monarchy.
Kuwait possesses significant oil reserves, and oil exports form the backbone of its economy. The government has been working on diversifying the economy by investing in sectors such as finance, real estate, and tourism.
Diplomatic relations between the countries began in June 1962 with the appointment of the first Kuwaiti Ambassador to India. India was among the earliest countries to recognize Kuwaiti independence.
- Kuwait was one of the first countries to extend support to India during the war with China in 1962.
While relations between the countries have traditionally been warm, they were strained in the early 1990s due to India’s pro-Iraq stance following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.
- India sided with Iraq during the Gulf War and became the only country to shift its embassy from Kuwait to Basra during the war.
- The demolition of the Babri Masjid also impacted ties with Kuwait
Vice President Dr. Zakir Husain visited Kuwait in 1965. Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi visited Kuwait in 1981 and Vice President Shri Hamid Ansari visited Kuwait in 2009.
India-Kuwait Economic relations
Kuwait is a small, rich, relatively open, petroleum-based economy. It has estimated crude oil reserves (about 6% of world reserves), and proven natural gas reserves.
- Oil revenues constitute the main source of income and amount to approximately 94% of the state’s revenues.
- Kuwait offers an open, competitive, and affluent market for consumer goods and project exports, and a relatively diverse project market, the 4th largest amongst the GCC countries after the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Historically, Indo-Kuwaiti relations have always had an important trade dimension. India has consistently been among the top trading partners of Kuwait.
India has been a natural trading partner of Kuwait and until 1961 Indian Rupee was the legal tender in Kuwait.
- Items of Exports to Kuwait (during FY 2022-23) were Cereals; Organic Chemicals; Electrical Machinery & Equipment; Vehicles and Ceramic Products.
- Items of Imports from Kuwait (during FY 2022-23) were Mineral Fuels; Organic Chemicals; Aircraft & parts; Plastics and Iron and steel (scrap).
India is one of the largest importers of Kuwaiti oil. The energy sector forms a crucial component of bilateral economic relations.
Kuwait remains a reliable supplier of crude oil & LPG to India, meeting our crucial energy needs.
There is a mechanism of a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Hydrocarbons that has been meeting regularly.
Indian community in Kuwait
The Indian community with a strength of about 1 million is the largest expatriate community in Kuwait and is regarded as the community of first preference among the expatriate communities.
Professionals like engineers, doctors, chartered accountants, scientists, software experts, management consultants, architects; technicians and nurses; retail traders, and businessmen are present in Kuwait, though a large proportion consists of unskilled and semi-skilled workers.
The Indian Business Community in Kuwait has carved a niche in the Kuwaiti market in retail as well as distributorship. Many of the business houses have been present in Kuwait for three to four generations.
India-Kuwait Other areas of cooperation
During the COVID-19 pandemic, in May 2020, the Indian Government sent a 15-member rapid response team and provided medical supplies to combat the pandemic.
- Kuwait also provided urgent medical assistance to India including Liquid Medical Oxygen, Oxygen concentrators, and ventilators in during the second wave of COVID-19 in India in May 2021.
Manpower cooperation: Labour and Manpower issues form the core of our relations with a large number of workers, both white-collar and blue-collar, working in Kuwait. Indians are the largest expatriate community in Kuwait, both in terms of several Indian citizens and also worker-wise. There is an existing mechanism of a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Labour, Employment, and Manpower Development to discuss these issues, which has been meeting regularly.
Education: There are 26 Schools in Kuwait following the CBSE curriculum with over 60,000 students, mainly Indians and some Arab and South Asian expats as well.
Cultural Relations: Historically, the India-Kuwait relationship has been anchored in and nurtured by close cultural contact and mutual exchange. The Embassy has been promoting Indian culture and heritage through various programs and initiatives.
India-Kuwait share a multifaceted relationship marked by economic cooperation, cultural exchanges, and a significant Indian diaspora in Kuwait. While the relationship has generally been positive, both countries continue to explore opportunities for enhancing cooperation in various domains. It’s essential to consider that developments in international relations can bring changes to the dynamics of bilateral ties.
Read: India and GCC
-Article by Swathi Satish