Jaishankar to visit Kuwait on June 9; carry PM’s message
External affairs minister S Jaishankar is expected to carry a message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Kuwaiti emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah on ways to boost bilateral ties when he visits the West Asian country on Wednesday.
This will be the first visit from the Indian side to Kuwait since Sheikh Nawaf became the oil-rich nation’s new ruler last September, following the death of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Kuwaiti foreign minister Ahmed Nasser al-Mohammed al-Sabah had visited India in March.
Jaishankar’s official visit is part of continuous efforts between officials of the two countries to “strengthen the already strong and solid bilateral relations and push them towards better levels”, a person familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
The external affairs minister is expected to carry a letter from the Indian Prime Minister regarding bilateral relations and ways to enhance them, the person added.
During foreign minister Ahmad Nasser’s visit to India in mid-March, the two sides announced the establishment of a joint commission, chaired by the foreign ministers. A number of joint working groups would be established under the joint commission to enhance cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, economic affairs, petrochemicals, defence and culture.
The two foreign ministers have also exchanged a number of phone calls within a short period of time since a second wave of Coronavirus infections hit India, during which the Kuwaiti minister reiterated his country’s commitment to stand with India in these difficult times and to provide relief materials, especially oxygen, the person cited above said.
Jaishankar has expressed India’s appreciation for the support extended by Kuwait by providing relief materials and medical oxygen through ships that is still continuing. Under an air and sea bridge arrangement, Indian Navy ships are carrying large oxygen tanks from Kuwait ports to Indian ports, and Indian Air Force aircraft then transport the empty tanks back to Kuwait for refilling.
The joint commission created earlier this year was aimed at institutionalising bilateral ties in areas ranging from energy to defence and to forge a framework for future cooperation. It will act as an umbrella for all bilateral institutional engagements such as foreign office consultations and joint working groups. Apart from existing working groups on hydrocarbons, manpower and mobility, and healthcare, new groups would be created on trade and investment, defence and security, and maritime cooperation.
India is among the largest trading partners of Kuwait, and bilateral trade was worth $10.86 billion during 2019-20. India’s imports, mainly oil, were worth $9.6 billion during this period. Kuwait was the 10th largest oil supplier to India during 2019-20 and met 3.8% of the country’s energy needs. Kuwait is also home to nearly 900,000 Indian expatriates.
The Indian government had supplied 200,000 doses of Covishield vaccines to Kuwait in February.