India–Kuwait relations are bilateral diplomatic relations between the Republic of India and the State of Kuwait. The two countries share friendly ties. Kuwait houses a large expatriate Indian population and is the source for 10-12% of India's oil imports while India is among the largest trade partners of Kuwait.
The recent discovery of artifacts such as pottery and jewellery from the Kuwaiti island of Failaka point to commercial and cultural interaction between the two countries dating back several millennia. Prior to the discovery of oil in Kuwait, Indo–Kuwait trade revolved around dates and pedigreed horses, with Kuwaiti sailors making annual trips between the Shatt-al-Arab and the western ports of India to conduct the trade. The horse trade was ended in 1945 after World War II, following which trade turned to pearls and teak wood.
Diplomatic relations between the countries began in June 1962 with the appointment of Yacoub Abdulaziz al-Rasheed as the first Kuwaiti Ambassador to India. India was among the earliest countries to recognise Kuwaiti independence while Kuwait was one of the first countries to extend support to India during the war with China in 1962. During the 1950s and 1960s Bombay was a hub for many Kuwaiti businesses and the emir himself maintained a house there on the Marine Drive. 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 refused an audience to the Kuwaiti ambassador in New Delhi, 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 calling for Prime Minister Narasimha Rao to rebuild the structure and hand it over to Indian Muslims. The Government of Kuwait however was quick to act against calls for dismissing Hindu employees from Kuwaiti firms and for shutting shops to protest against India. In 1992, the External Affairs Minister Madhavsinh Solanki pulled off a "diplomatic triumph" on his visit to Kuwait that helped overcome the strains that had crept into bilateral ties. In 1994, the Kuwait government struck down a proposal in the Kuwait National Assembly that called for a ban on entry and recruitment of Hindu workers in Kuwait to prevent any worsening of relations with a "friendly India".
There has been regular high level bilateral state visits between the two countries. Vice Presidents of India, Dr. Zakir Husain in 1965 and Hamid Ansari in 2009 and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981 have led Indian visits to Kuwait while the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah in 1964, the Emir Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 1980 and 1983 and the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah in 2006 have led state visits from Kuwait to India.
Indians in Kuwait
Indians form one of the largest expatriate communities in Kuwait numbering about 640,000 people. Their presence in white collar jobs have been increasing consistently especially in the electronic, industrial, architectural and engineering sectors. Kuwait's Ministry of Health also employs a significant number of Indian medics and paramedics. Indians have been described by the Emir's special envoy as having acquired a special space in Kuwait as "a brilliant and the least problematic expatriate community which works or the overall development of Kuwait". There are however a large number of Indians working in low paying jobs and in 2011 as many as 22,000 Indians were found to be staying illegally in Kuwait and the Indian embassy in Kuwait facilitated the departure of 12,825 Indian nationals to India following the declaration of an Amnesty in Kuwait. Indians in Kuwait remit over $3 billion annually to India and Kuwait is home to 300 Indian associations and 18 Indian Schools affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education, New Delhi.
The Kuwaiti economy, before the discovery of oil, depended heavily on maritime activities and trade. Kuwait was a centre for ship building and pearl diving and fishing were important commercial activities. Until 1961 the Indian Rupee was the legal tender in Kuwait and Indo–Kuwaiti commerce revolved around trade in agricultural goods, textiles and horses.
In 2011–12, bilateral trade amounted to $17.56 billion, marking a 44% rise over the previous year. Petroleum accounts for the bulk of the trade, with the non-oil trade accounting for only $1.9 billion. The balance of trade is heavily in favour of Kuwait with Indian exports to Kuwait amounting to a mere $1.1 billion in 2011–12. Petroleum imports worth $15.67 billion from Kuwait makes it India's second largest supplier of oil from the GCC countries next only to Saudi Arabia. Indian exports to Kuwait in 2011–12 consisted of value added goods such as iron and steel products, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment and food items. Kuwait is India's third largest trade partner in the Arab world and it accounted for 3.34% of India's global imports in 2011. India is however Kuwait's second largest export market and its fifth largest source of imports and has consistently been among the top ten trading partners of Kuwait with bilateral trade doubling to $17.5 billion in 2011–12 from $8.35 billion in 2007–08.
Indian public sector companies in the insurance and aviation sectors have offices in Kuwait, while private companies including Larsen & Toubro, Punj Lloyd and Kalpataru have implemented major projects in Kuwait including in its petroleum and power sectors. The Alghanim Group, the KAPICO group, Global Investment House and Kuwait Finance House are the important Kuwaiti companies in India. India has in recent years mooted joint venture projects between the two countries towards establishing new facilities in the oil and gas sector in both countries, while Kuwait has welcomed Indian companies to bid for projects in Kuwait as it undertakes a massive infrastructure development program.
India and Kuwait have signed several agreements relating to scientific and technological cooperation including medical cooperation and in the areas of culture and education. There are also agreements between Indian and Kuwaiti institutions of higher education and research and agreements on avoidance of Double Taxation, drug reduction and prevention of illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and programs for cultural and information exchanges between Kuwait and India.
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