From dates to date the relations between India and Kuwait have sweetened and ripened and become strong like the Arabian horse which at one time was exported to India from Kuwait. This was long ago, earlier than oil was discovered in Kuwait and the trade route was the sea and large dhows used by Kuwaiti sailors and traders to indulge in trading. The nearest trade route was to Surat and Mumbai. The trade flourished and so did the people to people relations. With the passage of time and restrictions, Kuwaitis switched to pearls which they fished out of the Arabian gulf waters during summers which was followed by heavy rains making it impossible for small ships and dhows to sail through the rough Indian Ocean. However, the rough weather did not deter the Kuwaiti traders to come to India for trade. Many of the Kuwaiti traders settled in Mumbai at that time.
When new settlers come in they bring with them their part of education, food and living styles, so did the Kuwaiti settlers.
Kuwaiti traders believed in mutual benefit and so they bought wood from India. They also bought tea, rice and spices which led them to making “biryani” as their favourite food. Calicut happened to be the most busy Indian port where hundreds of ships sailed in from Kuwait, Oman, Yemen and the Persian coast.
It was not alone Calicut which became a busy port but also Mangalore was yet another point which became a favourite with the Kuwaiti sailors where some of them established steamer companies. It is known that at the beginning of the 20th century Kuwaiti merchants opened export and import offices in Karachi, Mumbai, Calicut, Porbandar and Goa. Remnants of those firms still exist in Mumbai till date.
There used to be a saying “when in need, India is your destination. By settling in India, one could obtain wealth.” On the other hand the same was said by Indian side. Kuwait was considered the land where one could earn gold.
So close were the ties that Kuwait circulated the Indian Rupee as its currency way back in 1830 and it remained in circulation till 1960 when the Kuwaiti Dinar was introduced in 1961.
Postal services in Kuwait seemed to have been born out of the Indian connection. Stamps came into existence in the beginning of 20th century.
To put it straight political ties between Kuwait and India started with the appointment of an Ambassador to India in June 1964 then followed various Amiri decrees strengthening modern day political ties.
India is among the ten major exporters to Kuwait which buys gold jewellery, textiles, readymade garments, foodstuffs, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, computer software, electronic equipment and many other consumer goods and commodities.
Kuwait exports to India oil and its byproducts. Many Indian firms are working in Kuwait together with the local ones in projects related to petrochemical industry, refinery and communication.
The third meeting of India-Kuwait joint ministerial commission for trade, economy, scientific and technological cooperation was held in September 2018 in Kuwait where the Indian delegation was headed by Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar. This was his first official visit to Kuwait at the invitation Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Anas Khaled Al-Saleh. There are regular high level visits between Kuwait and India.
Kuwait has been an important trading partner with a total trade of USD 5.95 billion in 2016-17. It has been the seventh largest crude supplier to India in the same year.
Indians are the largest community of expatriates and their number is expected to be around one million.
Kuwait started for giving soft loans for development at low profit. Loans are given for various infrastructure projects. Kuwait fund for development has touched a figure of USD 15 billion and benefitted 106 countries.
By Amit Mittal