Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning a visit to Kuwait in the first week of January, the Economic Times reported. This will be first PM level visit from India to Kuwait in 40 years, notwithstanding the fact Kuwait is one of India’s key oil suppliers and hosts a big diaspora in the region.

Enhancing Kuwaiti investments to India and putting in a place a defense partnership is on the cards for the visit. Modi had visited all other five Gulf states since 2015 except Kuwait, and the trip is expected to upgrade ties to the next level. Approximately one million Indians are based in Kuwait; the largest expatriate community in Kuwait. The year 2020-21 marked the 60th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries. India has been a natural trading partner of Kuwait and until 1961, the Indian Rupee was the legal tender in Kuwait.

India has consistently been among the top ten trading partners of Kuwait and bilateral trade for FY 2020-2021 stood at $ 6.27 billion. Kuwait remains a reliable supplier of crude oil and LPG to India, officials informed. So far, Kuwaiti investments in India are over $ 5.5 billion, majority of which is by Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), which has been invested in companies like GMR Infrastructure Ltd, Interglobe Aviation’s (Indigo Airlines) IPO, Bombay Stock Exchange and Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd. KIA wants to exponentially enhance its presence in India across sectors, officials indicated.

Ties received a boost when Kuwait emerged as the biggest supplier of liquid medical oxygen during the second COVID wave here in April-May. The Kuwaiti Cabinet issued a statement in support of India and sent liquid medical oxygen to India over many cycles of an air and sea bridge. Earlier, an Indian medical team travelled aboard a special aircraft from India to Kuwait in April 2020 to help fight COVID-19 in Kuwait.

In June, external affairs minister S Jaishankar visited Kuwait and called on the prime minister to deliver a letter from Modi to the Amir of Kuwait. During the visit a MoU for ‘Cooperation in the Recruitment of Domestic Workers’ was signed and it was decided to hold a joint Ministerial meet of Foreign and Commerce Ministers. Last year, then Indian petroleum and natural gas and steel minister Dharmendra Pradhan visited Kuwait to offer condolences on the demise of the late Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah — a trip that helped to upgrade ties.