As India is celebrating the 66th Independence Day of the country, so is the India-Kuwait Relationship. It is a well known fact that India and Kuwait enjoy fruitful relationship even before the oil era.
With roughly over a year in Kuwait, HE the Ambassador Mr. Satish C Mehta achieved a remarkable role in strengthening the India-Kuwait relationship especially in the field of trade and economics.
On the occasion of this auspicious day for all of us Indians, IIK took the opportunity to obtain an insight into the important role played by the HE the Ambassador in establishing sound business and friendly relations between India and Kuwait.
IIK. It is almost a year and a month you took charge as the Ambassador of India to Kuwait. In this short period the India-Kuwait friendly relationship and economic development has seen very good progress and you have spearheaded this progress. Please share with us your focused strategy.
Ans. Historically, India-Kuwait relations have always had an important trade dimension. Bilateral trade is over $ 12 billion now. More is possible. Kuwaiti businessmen opened up the markets of the Gulf region and beyond for us. Kuwait is a reliable source of energy for us. The growing Indian economy requires increased supplies of energy. We could develop this relationship further by collaborating with each other in the oil sector such as refineries, petro-chemical projects etc. As Indian companies are now producing an ever increasing range of high-quality competitively priced products, it is but natural that they look at markets such as Kuwait for establishing their presence.
India is presently the 2nd fastest growing economy in the world. Kuwait has a huge corpus of sovereign funds which can be very profitably invested in India for the mutual benefit of both the countries. Similarly, the big business houses in Kuwait could also utilize the opportunities available to invest in our country and benefit from it.
The KD 37 billion development plan of Kuwait, with emphasis on building infrastructural projects like townships, roads, airports, rail network, hospitals, renovation in the oil sector etc, affords opportunities to Indian companies with experience in these sectors. Already many Indian companies have started making their presence felt in Kuwait and are competing for various projects.
There is also a possibility of Indian and Kuwaiti businessmen collaborating with each other for investments in third countries where businessmen from both the countries could leverage their respective strengths profitably.
IIK. Many top Indian companies such as L&T, TERI etc. have made their presence in Kuwait. How beneficial is this to our country?
Ans. The presence of Indian companies like L&T, that have successfully executed projects, reflects the strength and capabilities of the Indian companies. It also provides reassurance to Kuwaiti companies that are now planning to look at India for providing projects that Indian companies are second to none. Successful completion of such projects also gives our engineers and project managers useful international experience, credentials and confidence to strive for more and larger projects in Kuwait and elsewhere.
IIK. During your tenure, high-level delegates under the Ministry of Finance held series of business talks and seminars in Kuwait and attracted many top Kuwaiti business community including KIPCO, Alshaya, Kamco etc in addition to the Indian business community. How easy was it to convince the Kuwaitis Investors to attract to India?
Ans. As I have already indicated, Kuwait has a large sovereign fund. In addition to this, many large business houses and fund managers of Kuwait have funds available for investments. India provides a secure, stable and growing market for investments. Our effort has been to connect the two sides. The inter-ministerial delegation led by the Head of Capital Markets Division from the Finance Ministry enabled us to disseminate information about the Indian economy, its growth prospects and potential and the opportunities it held for Kuwaiti investors. As the delegation had representatives from officials handling taxation, foreign exchange management, and stock exchanges, we were able to provide authoritative responses to all queries from participants at various meetings. Such delegation visits are planned to enlighten the investors regarding the opportunities available and to reassure them that Indian government was keen to welcome them with open arms. As I had participated in various meetings, I must say it was heartening to see the interest which was also reflected in the penetrating questions that were asked. The process is ongoing. We are confident that the results would be rewarding.
IIK. In the last one year India has made remarkable presence in several trade events in Kuwait such as the 2nd Economic Exhibition organized by Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Jewellery Exhibition & Conference, India Medical Tourism Destination, ?etc. How is the overall response from the Kuwait Business community towards India?
Ans. We are witnessing a growing interest in Kuwait and its business community to strengthen and expand its economic engagement with India which may be attributed to a number of factors such as historic business links with India, growing Indian market, new and high-quality products emerging out of India, stable and secure economic environment, competitive pricing, and the large Indian community in Kuwait acting as facilitators. Participation at these exhibitions and conferences provide very useful first-hand information to the interested parties. The response of the Kuwaiti business community has been positive and we shall continue to engage with them.
IIK. Recently India and Kuwait signed an MOU on Health Cooperation. Could you please detail the benefits the Indian community will have from this MOU both here and back home?
Ans. The MoU on Heath Cooperation signed between the two countries on April 23, 2012 in New Delhi has created a framework for promoting cooperation in the medical and health sector between the two countries. As you know, our doctors, nurses, para-medical staff and medical technicians are much respected and are playing an important role in the medical field in Kuwait, the MOU will enable both countries to expand cooperation in the health sector, including recruitment of doctors and nurses, recognition of degrees, specialized training of Kuwaiti doctors in India, medical tourism etc. It envisages establishment of a Joint Working Group for the purpose of taking the process of health cooperation further. We expect the Joint Working Group to meet later this year.
IIK. Not only in the economic and trade development, you as the Ambassador of India made tremendous improvement towards the community service also. You initiated the ‘Open House’ concept for the large number of Indian communities to solve their problems and grievances. How far is it successful?
Ans. Indians are the largest expatriate community in Kuwait. The Indian community is well respected for their endearing traits like hard work, dedication, sincerity, honesty, loyalty, etc. They are present in diverse fields and have carved a niche for themselves in their sphere of work. We have over 500,000 workers, including those in the domestic sector. While a vast majority is satisfied and content, some have issues relating to their employment or consular aspects. Mechanisms exist for addressing these to the best of our ability. However, there may be some who would like to personally meet the Ambassador. The idea of this ‘Open House’ was to hear their grievances first hand and to see how we could help them. On an average, I meet around 30 visitors. Even though the Open House is from 3 to 4 PM, often the meetings go well past 5 PM. From the number of participants who come as well as feedback from community representatives, it is clear that the Open House has been appreciated and found useful. Personally, I have found this most useful as it has given me deeper insights into the problems faced by our community members.
IIK. In Kuwait, places such as Abbasiya, where a large number of Indians live, are always on the news for the lack of safety and security. With the help of community organizations, Embassy held some talks with the Kuwait government officials. Please tell us about the support our Embassy is lending in such issues.
Ans. Our community members were facing issues relating to security and municipal services in the Abbasiya area. We brought this to the attention of the Kuwaiti authorities and facilitated discussion to see how these could be resolved. Our experience was that the Kuwaiti authorities were very forthcoming and responsive. I believe that our community representatives should regularly interact with the local authorities and build a good rapport with them.
IIK. Even though there is tremendous improvement in the consular service, still there is a room for improvement. Many times we are getting complaints from various corners that people are not getting the proper requirement for various services, which force them to come back again and again to the Embassy. Any future plans to improve the system ?
Ans. Recently, we recast information relating to passport, visa and consular services and added more details and clarifications. Similarly, to save a return visit to pick the passports after it has been serviced, we started an optional paid courier service, which many are now using with satisfaction. Improvement in service is an ongoing exercise. Based on our own assessment as well as the feedback we receive, we would continue to improve our service delivery. In this regard, we welcome constructive suggestions and will be happy to implement these within the constraints of our resources.
IIK. On the eve of the Independence Day of India, kindly share with us your message to the large number of Indian community living in Kuwait?
Ans. First of all, I would like to convey my greetings to all our community members on the auspicious occasion of our Independence Day. India continues to march towards progress and prosperity. The results of our years of hard work are bearing fruit. In every area of human endeavour, we are making a useful contribution which is being recognized internationally. Our compatriots can take legitimate pride in their country’s achievements as also in its growing prestige and respect in the comity of nations. Yet, much still needs to be done. We need to be united in our efforts and unwavering in our resolve to realize our full potential. The future is ours.