Thursday, November 07, 2013

Kuwaiti PM on landmark India visit

Kuwaiti Prime Minister being received by Indian Minister (Pic: Syed Akbaruddin, MEA Spokesperson) 

NEW DELHI (AA) – Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah arrives in India on Thursday for a three-day state visit at the invitation of Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
The visit is the first by a Kuwaiti head of state since the Gulf emirate separated the post of crown prince from the head of government in 2003.
Sheikh Jaber will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including ministers, senior officials and businessmen.
In addition to talks with Singh, Sheikh Jaber will also meet with Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
The Kuwaiti premier will also attend a business luncheon jointly organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
The emir of Kuwait paid a landmark visit to India in 2006.
VP Ansari visited Kuwait in 2009, while the last visit by an Indian head of government to Kuwait was in 1981 by then premier Indira Gandhi.
The Indian government is according major importance to Sheikh Jaber's visit.
"Kuwait is a major supplier of our energy needs. Almost ten percent of our petrol imports are sourced from Kuwait," Mridul Kumar, joint secretary for the Gulf at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told a press briefing late Wednesday.
He asserted that India was one of Kuwait's most important trading partners.
"In the last three years, we have seen bilateral trade doubling. We had almost $17 billion of bilateral trade with Kuwait," he added.
Kumar noted that India exported a plethora of products to Kuwait, including foodstuffs, bovine meat and marine products.
He asserted that countries like India needed huge investments in infrastructure.
"The money will come from people who have got investible surpluses," he said, noting that Kuwait boasted some $350 billion in sovereign wealth that was increasing by $25 million every year.
He hoped India would benefit from such long-term Kuwaiti investments.
Kumar stressed that India did not want to limit itself to a mere buyer-seller relationship with Kuwait.
"We are telling our Kuwaiti friends that let us not only buy oil…. why don't we do some more for us in terms of mutual benefit. And that more is joint ventures in petrochemical complexes," he explained.
"We are looking at possibly working together in third countries also," the diplomat added.
Kumar said Kuwaitis had invested over $100 billion in terms of refurbishing the oil sector and pursuing clean fuel projects.
"They are building new refineries and there are huge opportunities for our companies," he noted.
Kumar said India was also looking at ventures in the fertilizers sector.
"The reason that we have this visit is to ensure that these aspects of our relationship are taken into account [and] we solidify them further," he asserted.
He said India was also looking at textiles, electrical equipment, trucks, machinery and security.
Kumar said India had launched a dialogue with Kuwait on security.
"The countries in that region are located in a very volatile region and it is extremely important for us to engage with them in terms of security dialogue," he said.
"This is another aspect of our relationship we are looking at very seriously with the Kuwaitis," he added.
The diplomat highlighted the importance of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Kuwait, to India.
"The first and most important aspect of our relationship with Gulf countries is the presence of over seven million Indians in the Gulf," he said.
"They are our ambassadors there and also they provide us huge remittances," he added.
"Out of the World Bank's report of $70 billion [worth of] remittances annually that we received last year, over $30 billion came from the six rich GCC countries," the diplomat noted.
He went on to point out that there were 12 Indian billionaires in Dubai.
"So you can imagine the kind of riches we have earned out of working with Gulf countries."

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