External affairs minister S Jaishankar will be visiting Kuwait on Wednesday. He will be carrying a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on matters relating to bilateral ties. Following the death of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, Sheikh Nawaf became the new ruler last September. This will be the first visit from India’s side since then.
Kuwait’s foreign minister Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah visited India in the month of March. During this time, the two countries have announced the setting up of a joint commission. This was planned to be chaired by the foreign ministers. In addition to this, a number of joint working groups would be established under the commission to boost cooperation in several fields such as trade, investment, economic affairs, petrochemicals, defence and culture.
When the second wave of Coronavirus infection affected India, two of the foreign Ministers exchanged a couple of telephone calls, that too in a short period of time. The Kuwaiti minister agreed upon his country’s decision to stand with India in these tough times. They have also decided to provide relief materials including oxygen, which India was struggling to get.
India’s External Affairs Minister appreciated Kuwait’s support in this regard. The relief materials and oxygen are supplied through ships. This process continues till date. The process is conducted under an air and sea bridge arrangement, by which Indian Navy ships carry oxygen tanks from Kuwait to Indian ports. Indian Air Force aircraft, then, will be transporting the empty tank bank to Kuwait for refilling. However, the Indian government had supplied 200,000 doses of Covishield vaccines to Kuwait in the month of February. This emphasis on the bilateral relation between the two countries.
A Joint Commission was set up this year, which focused at institutionalising bilateral ties in certain fields including energy, defence and to build up a framework for future cooperation. This will be an umbrella term for all the bilateral institutional engagements like foreign office consultations and joint working groups. The existing working groups are on hydrocarbons, manpower and mobility, and healthcare. Apart from this, new groups would be created on trade and investment, defence and security, and maritime cooperation.
India is considered to be one of the largest trading partners of Kuwait. In 2019-20 bilateral trade was worth $10.86 billion. India’s imports, mainly focused on oil, were worth $9.6 billion during this period. Along with this, most of the oil supplies to India came from Kuwait at that point as it was the 10th largest oil supplier to India during the year 2019-20 . This met nearly 3.8% of the country’s energy needs. Apart from this, Kuwait is home to nearly 900,000 Indian expatriates.