By Sajeev K Peter
KUWAIT: Indian Ambassador to Kuwait Sibi George expressed optimism that 2022 will be a better year for all, unlike 2021, which was a nightmarish year for many, saying the Indian Embassy in Kuwait will always be ready to help the Indian diaspora to face any challenges that may come up in 2022. In an interview with Kuwait Times on the occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, he spoke at length about his hopes and aspirations in the new year as the ambassador of India to Kuwait, Kuwait-India diplomatic relations, the embassy’s consular services and outreach programs, among other things.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
Kuwait Times: As the Indian Embassy in Kuwait celebrates 73rd Republic Day of India, how do you see 2022 unfolding for the Indian community in Kuwait, particularly in the context of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic?
George: Let’s accept it, we all had a very difficult 2021. In fact, 2021 was a nightmarish year for many, and all were looking to the embassy for guidance, help and support. And it was not at all easy for the embassy; we had our own challenges, including many of our staff who contracted COVID-19. Myself and my family were infected. Many in the community were infected.
In 2021, we worked with the community and the Kuwaiti authorities to ensure the welfare of the community. Come 2022, we are ready to help the community to face the challenges. We already have over 50 Indian doctors engaged in free telemedical consultations to help the community overcome the difficulties. Together we will beat COVID-19, whatever its variants.
KT: In the year 2021-2022, both Kuwait and India are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Any comments on the deep-rooted bilateral relations?
George: India-Kuwait relationship is something special. It is indeed deep-rooted. Kuwait is a very important country in our extended neighborhood. Our political, economic and cultural engagement continue to grow despite the COVID-19 related challenges. We are on the way to realizing our target of 600 events to mark the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations. Our leadership is in regular touch through visits, meetings and telephone exchanges. Our dialogue mechanisms including joint working groups hold regular meetings. Today, we have a forward-looking roadmap and action plan to simultaneously engage our Kuwaiti friends and the Indian community to transform our relationship into a new age, ‘New India-New Kuwait partnership’ connecting the visions of the leadership of our two friendly countries and building upon our people-to-people connection.
KT: You took over as the ambassador of India to Kuwait on August 4, 2020. Several positive changes have taken place over the last 16 months in the embassy. How do you look at these reforms? What are your hopes and aspirations?
George: One of the important elements of the India-Kuwait relationship is the presence of a large Indian community in Kuwait. We have many successful businessmen, both big and small, we have highly successful CEOs and CFOs, we have very highly talented doctors and engineers, we have nurses and other medical professionals. We have a large number of middle management personnel, skilled and semiskilled employees and a large number of domestic workers. As the ambassador, it is my solemn responsibility to engage with this wide spectrum of the Indian community, which is large and has many desires, aspirations and expectations.
As the government of India’s representative in Kuwait, it is my responsibility to understand their aspirations, expectations and requirements. It is my responsibility to provide them with the best possible consular services. This is what my embassy strives to achieve. I am happy that they have been able to connect with us and we with them. The community should feel at home with their embassy, a feeling of home away from home, and I am sure that this is exactly the case now.
Recruitment of nurses
KT: Regarding the issue of recruitment of nurses to Kuwait, what is the new stumbling block for the recruitment process?
George: There is absolutely no stumbling block for the recruitment of Indian nurses. Indian nurses constitute the largest segment of nurses in Kuwait. Nurses from India are the most sought after by all hospitals and clinics, not only in Kuwait, but also in other countries in the GCC region and beyond. Indian nurses are coming and will continue to come to Kuwait; this recruitment has been taking place and will continue to take place. We are working with the authorities to ensure that the recruitment process goes smoothly through a very transparent procedure. With the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the last two years, there was much more pressure on the medical fraternity, including on our nurses.
KT: You have made serious attempts to resolve the problems of Indian engineers in Kuwait. Is it still a ‘work in progress’?
George: There are so many highly reputed engineering institutions in India. In fact, the CEOs of big tech companies like the newly-appointed CEO of Twitter, CEOs of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Microsoft, IBM, Adobe Inc, Novartis are all Indians, most of whom had their education in Indian institutions. Nobody can deny the fact that Indian engineers are the most sought after in most of the countries in the world, including in GCC countries. Every Kuwaiti friend whom I met has spoken very highly about the contributions of Indian engineers.
As far as the problems being faced by Indian engineers in Kuwait, this has been brought to the knowledge of the concerned authorities in Kuwait. We have been able to address many of the issues involved. I am confident that we will be able to resolve the remaining issues very soon.
KT: The embassy has opened three new outsourcing centers for passport and other consular services. Your take please.
George: We now have three new centers outsourced for passport services, visa services and other consular services. Most of the attestation work has also been shifted to the outsourcing centers. We are keeping the centers open till 8 pm every day including on weekends. Similarly, for many services, we were able to reduce the fee as well; for example, for photograph services the fee has been reduced from KD 2.750 in the past to 300 fils now, form filling for visas from KD 3 to 100 fils, form filling for passports from KD 1 to 100 fils, and Internet facility for form filling from KD 1 to 100 fils. We will continue to ensure that the community gets the best consular services at lower cost.