By Sajeev K Peter
KUWAIT: The memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between Kuwait and India Thursday is an important step as it would help streamline and strengthen the position of Indian domestic workers in Kuwait and bring them within the ambit of a legal framework, India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said Friday.
Kuwait and India signed an MoU on recruitment of Indian domestic workers in Kuwait. During his three-day visit, the minister called on HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and held talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah and Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Issa Al-Salman. Jaishankar also chaired a conference of Indian ambassadors in the Gulf region in Kuwait Thursday and virtually addressed the Indian community Friday evening before wrapping up his visit to the country.
In an interview with Kuwait Times, the visiting Indian minister touched upon various topics, ranging from the dynamic Kuwait-India relations to matters related to the Indian diaspora. “The connect between India and Kuwait is millennia old. A few centuries ago, our forefathers were travelling between our shores and trading with each other. They had vibrant exchanges and as a result they got to know each other’s cultures, languages, values, arts and much more. They have built this relationship on mutual trust and respect,” Jaishankar said.
He said the role played by the leadership of the two countries in building the strong relationship is also of paramount importance. “The former Amir, HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, was amongst those leaders whose personal contributions to the strengthening of this relationship are immense. With his demise, the State of Kuwait lost a great statesman, India lost a great friend and the Indian community in Kuwait lost a caring leader.
It is not for no reason that he was bestowed the award of Global Humanitarian Leader by the United Nations. He took special care of the Indian community in Kuwait and we in India are grateful for that warmth and affection. The gesture of declaring national mourning upon his death was just a token of our gratitude towards a great leader,” Jaishankar stated.
“This is my first visit to this beautiful and friendly country of Kuwait. I have been received with so much warmth and affection – I am touched and honored. I had excellent official engagements yesterday with the leadership of the country. I have had a number of interactions with my counterpart and dear friend Sheikh Dr Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Kuwait. We have always had open and friendly conversations. Although his visit to India was a short one, we made significant progress in strengthening our bilateral relations,” the minister said.
The ministers announced upgradation of the joint ministerial commission to the level of foreign ministers following their talks on Thursday, making a quantum leap in the countries’ bilateral engagement. “We have also agreed to set up new joint working groups across various fields. An MoU for cooperation on the recruitment of domestic workers was also signed. There is excitement, enthusiasm and more importantly optimism on both sides to take our partnerships to newer heights,” Jaishankar pointed out. He said India greatly values the role being played by Kuwait in contributing to the stability of the region.
Fighting the pandemic
During the second wave of peak infections, Kuwait offered an uninterrupted supply of medical oxygen to India. There was excellent cooperation at the executive level as well, which saw smooth operationalization of a sea-air bridge between the two countries. “I am truly grateful to Kuwait for this special gesture. Kuwait has provided more than 500 metric tons of medical oxygen to India. The country has been very prompt and efficient in that. It is actually a proof that international partnerships and cooperation are not just phrases, but they make a difference in opening new vistas of cooperation,” Jaishankar said.
In April 2020, India had sent a 15-member rapid response medical team to Kuwait to assist the country in jointly fighting this pandemic. “India and Kuwait stood true to their historical, close partnership. We will continue to work closely with our partner Kuwait in this joint fight against the pandemic,” he added.
Jaishankar said the Gulf region is India’s extended neighborhood. “The region, and its peace and stability, will continue to remain crucial for the progress and the development of our country. We have shared views on many of the global issues, be it our commitment to reform the world order to reflect the realities of the 21st century and our keenness to work together to address contemporary challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, sustainable development and terrorism,” he affirmed.
Significantly, the Indian foreign minister chaired a meeting of Indian ambassadors in the region in Kuwait on Thursday. The Indian ambassadors to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Iran arrived in Kuwait to attend the conference.
“People-to-people relations form the core of the bilateral relations between our two countries. There are close to a million Indian nationals working and living here peacefully,” Jaishankar said. “Nonetheless, given the size of the community, there are bound to be some issues or matters concerning the Indian diaspora that featured in our bilateral talks.
I am pleased to say that we have made progress on these issues.” He said the Indian community in many ways defines India abroad, adding he is confident that the Indian community will continue to be an effective bridge between India and Kuwait as the bilateral relationship expands.
Jaishankar said India is already one of the fastest growing major economies in the world and one of the most preferred destinations for global capital. “We are at an inflection point of economic growth. We have set ourselves a target of a GDP of $5 trillion. In this context, my message to Kuwaiti investors is simple. Invest for a shared future in one of the most enterprising societies in the world. Invest in our growth story and our strong fundamentals and watch your capital grow,” he concluded.