After a hiatus, New Delhi reenergising its relation with Gulf region

By S A H Rizvi

Reverting to its time tested foreign policy, New Delhi is renergising its relationship with the Gulf nations and view the region as a long term partner; which of late had seen some comprehensible changes.

“In India we now give a lot of importance to the Gulf region, especially Kuwait which we see as one of our historical partners”, Minister of External Affairs Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told The Times Kuwait Editor Reaven D’Souza in an interview during his visit to Kuwait last week

 “Kuwait is a strong partner for India within this important region. Our bilateral ties with Kuwait are expanding rapidly with increased engagements at the highest levels and enhanced trade, economic and investment linkages between our two countries,” the Minister said.

Dr Jaishankar reiterated that India viewed the region and particularly Kuwait as a very important long-term partner. “Our bilateral relationship is definitely poised to move to a higher trajectory and significantly transform this relationship into a mutually enriching and forward looking partnership,

Much of the credit for the present shift must go to Indian policy makers outreach initiative helping various countries in the region when it was battling the first phase of COVID-19 pandemic last year

 “Kuwait is a very notable example of the rebalancing of relations with India in a world after COVID-19, as we discover that we can help each other in times of pressure. Part of this rebalancing was realization that we can do many things for each other with capabilities that we did not have before,” Dr Jaishankar told The Times Kuwait

Last year India had sent a team of medical personnel to Kuwait and also provided vaccine doses to this country, as well as to others in the region, ‘as part of our joint effort against the pandemic’

Then, last month, when India faced an intense second wave of the virus and required emergency medical oxygen, the countries in the region came to the rescue and readily shipped oxygen and other medical equipment, the most notable among them was Kuwait.

“In the past relief or support would come from fairly distant countries but today, whether it is natural disasters, pandemics, food security or energy security, we look at the capabilities and possibilities of our immediate neighbors; this will make for a very different world,” he noted.

The Indian External Affairs Minister arrived in Kuwait on an official three-day visit on June 9. During his visit Dr. Jaishankar met with Kuwait’s Prime Minister and delivered a letter from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed to His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmed Al Sabah. The visit also comes against the backdrop of India and Kuwait celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations.

“My counterpart, H E Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited India in March 2021. During his visit, we upgraded the Joint Ministerial Commission to the Foreign Ministers level. This is a significant shift in our institutional dialogue mechanism; we will also be setting up new Joint Working Groups across various fields including trade, investments, renewable emergency, defence, tourism, education and so on.”

Noting that there was an air if optimism on both sides to take the partnerships to newer heights, the minister added, “My visit comes in this context of increased political engagements at the highest levels between our two countries. I also had very good discussions with Kuwait interlocutors and made significant progress on all issues of mutual interest.”

 “These focused institutional engagements in various new areas will surely open a plethora of opportunities for mutual collaboration. We also signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Domestic Service Workers; this I believe is a significant development which will help in further streamlining manpower”

The Indian minister also expressed interest to participate in Kuwait’s Vision 2035 strategic plan. “India has expertise and technical know-how in many of the key areas. Some of our companies are already in Kuwait and executing projects successfully. I see more opportunities for many other top Indian companies in Kuwait’s transformational journey”

During his visit, Dr. Jaishakar also addressed the Indian community and interacted virtually with select members of the Indian community. He also answered queries raised on issues of concern to the community. He pointed out that the region was special to India particularly because of the large Indian community that was playing a significant role and acting as a bridge between the two countries.