In an Interview with Envoy Excellency H.E. Mr. Sibi George, Ambassador of India to Kuwait

Kuwait and India have developed a strong friendship over the last few decades. Can you comment on the contemporary relationship between the two nations?

Our relationship is a historically close and strong one. It is rooted in people-to-people ties and vibrant civilizational linkages. Over the years, this relationship matured into a stable and strong friendship. We have strong trade linkages with bilateral trade in excess of USD 10 billion annually and Kuwait is home to close to a million of Indian nationals. I see both sides keen to further enhance bilateral cooperation in various fields. Given the enthusiasm on both sides to elevate this partnership to a greater level, today, I would say we have a bilateral partnership which is dynamic and on a fast moving upward trajectory.

This year, India and Kuwait complete 60 years of cordial diplomatic relations. What else can you tell us about the same?

The year 2021-22 marks the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Kuwait. This is a major milestone in the relations between our two countries. We look forward to regular exchange of high level political and official visits and deeper engagement between the two sides in coming months. The Embassy aims to celebrate this momentous milestone in a befitting manner with year-long commemorative events. We have already organized a number of events under this theme and I look forward to work with each of our Diaspora members in organizing more events in the days, weeks and months ahead.

As you know, India is ready to celebrate its 75 years of independence. How is the Embassy of India going to contribute?

August 15 of this year marks India’s 75th Independence Day. 75th anniversary is an important milestone in the history of any nation. India which is one of the very few continuous civilization with a history of several millennia is celebrating the diamond jubilee of its independence. This occasion will be celebrated in an appropriate manner. When I say celebrations, I do not just mean festivals, I am talking in a broader manner. We have just upgraded our institutional engagement architecture; I look  forward to increased official interactions which will be a celebration of the strength of our institutional engagements. We are creating a new economic chapter with the launch of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Mission and other flagship programmes of Government of India as part of a vision to build a New India. Kuwait is charting its own Vision of New Kuwait, one which has diversification of the economy at its core. I look forward to increased business collaborations, trade events, bilateral visits of high level business delegations from both sides and a whole lot more; this is what I would call celebration of the partnership of the future. And of course, we have centuries of shared civilizational history, so I would like to see celebrations in the domain of culture, art, sports and a plethora of other areas.

As there any programs for cultural and information exchanges between Kuwait and India?

Our civilizational affinities date back well into history and I saw that in the museums I visited. Our cuisines, food habits, clothing and even language bear this hallmark of the vibrant exchanges enjoyed by our two countries over a long period of time. We have existing institutional frameworks for cooperation in the cultural domain. However, we need to revive these institutional platforms. Post COVID, we should engage more closely; have bilateral visits from cultural troupes; undertake joint collaboration work, or even organize a joint India-Kuwait Year of Culture. There are so many things we can do to reenergize our syncretic cultural ties. I am glad that our Embassy here has already started organizing a number of cultural promotion events under the year-long celebration of 60th Anniversary of Establishment of Diplomatic relations.

Recently in June, The External Affairs Minister of India visited Kuwait. What was the objective and what all were accomplished?

The visit to Kuwait in June 2021 by External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar was a landmark visit that helped us rekindle our bilateral relationship and to set a roadmap for taking our relationship to a new higher level of partnership. The visit explored ways and means to impart further dynamism in our traditional and friendly ties. The two sides established a  Joint Commission Meeting at the level of Foreign Ministers to be held annually. This is a major step in strengthening the institutional mechanism for cooperation between the two sides. It will act as an umbrella for all bilateral institutional engagements such as Foreign Office Consultations and Joint Working Groups and will provide a new momentum in our dynamic partnership. The Joint Commission is charged with formulating the required basis to strengthen the relations between the two countries, particularly in the fields of – Energy, Trade, Economy, Investment, Human Resources, Manpower and Labour, Finance, Skills, Culture, Science & Technology, Information Technology, Health, Education, Defense and Security. It will also review Agreements concluded between the two countries and find suitable solutions for any issues in their implementation.

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. What can you tell us about investments in the future?

India is already one of the most sought after destinations for global capital. Despite the headwinds and the disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic, India recorded the best ever FDI flows in the last Financial Year 2020-21. It is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies with a projected real GDP growth rate of 11% for FY 2021-22. And if the recent projections from IMF are to go by, India is slated to become the fastest growing economy in the world by 2023-24, which is nothing short of phenomenal of a major economy like India. The demographics are strongly in favour of India, which boasts the largest youth population in the world and has one the largest pools of scientific and technical talent. Indian infrastructure story is at the point of inflection with an investment pipeline of INR 111 lakh crore; which will lay the path to India attaining the target of becoming a US$ 5 trillion economy by FY 2025. Government of India is continuously undertaking structural reforms to help further improve the business environment in the country; India’s meteoric rise in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business is a testimony to the commitment of the Government to improve the business climate in the country. In addition, India’s rising global competitiveness and our strong base in R&D, innovation are likely to be our key comparative advantages in the race for global capital.

Can you tell us how India and Kuwait helped and supported each other during the COVID-19 pandemic?

India faced the first wave of COVID-19 with very low daily numbers of infections and fatalities. The whole of society and the whole of government approach adopted by the leadership in India helped handle the Covid 19 situation effectively in the first phase. It was a major achievement for a country with a population of over 1.4 billion, which is one sixth of the total population of the world. In fact, during that period, India, as the pharmacy of the world, supplied medicines and equipment to 154 countries and Made in India vaccines to over 90 countries including to our friendly State of Kuwait. In April this year, the second wave of the pandemic hit India badly. The situation has improved and I am confident that we will defeat this pandemic comprehensively in coming weeks and months and will continue to contribute effectively in the global fight against the pandemic.

When the second wave hit us suddenly a huge requirement of some essential medicines, oxygen equipment and liquid medical oxygen emerged. India again went into an all India effort adopting whole government whole people approach. It was most heartening to see our friends across the globe coming out in support of India. Kuwait was one of the first countries to come forward and offer support to India. Kuwait emerged as the major supplier of Liquid Medical Oxygen to India. I thank His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Mishaal Al- Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, Crown Prince of the State of Kuwait and the entire Cabinet and Government of Kuwait for the support to India. The Embassy received full cooperation and support from the leadership and officials of various Ministries and public authorities such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Public Authority of Industry, Kuwait Port Authority, Kuwait Red Crescent, Civil Aviation, Ministry of Defence, Customs authorities each one of them worked hard during the Holy month of Ramadan and even during the Eid holidays to send oxygen to India.

Indian community and friends of India here came together and led a campaign to send cylinders and tankers to India and to various state governments. Indian Community Support Group (ICSG), Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC), Indian Doctors Forum (IDF), IIM and IIT alumni group, ICAI, various associations of engineers, and our many professional and cultural associations and groups came forward arranging oxygen cylinders. What followed was an unprecedented flow of oxygen from  Kuwait to India. The support came from all quarters in Kuwait. This was a manifestation of the strength of our traditionally close relationship.

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