Dr Jaishankar thanks Kuwait leadership for prompt supply of medical assistance
KUWAIT CITY, June 12: Traditionally India and Kuwait are enjoying friendly relations, rooted in history and have stood the test of time. Over the ages, geographic proximity, historical trade links, cultural affinities and presence of large number of Indians in Kuwait have continued to sustain and nurture this long-standing relationship. The Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr S. Jaishankar paid a three-day – June 9-11 – visit to Kuwait during which he held high level talks with high-level Kuwaiti officials, including a meeting with HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al- Sabah and Sheikh Dr Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and also announced the establishment of an upgraded Joint Ministerial Commission. The minister during the visit also thanked the Kuwaiti authorities for Kuwait’s prompt supply of medical assistance to fight the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic in India. Dr Jaishankar spoke to the Arab Times in an exclusive interview.
Arab Times: During your visit the establishment of an upgraded Joint Ministerial Commission was announced. What does it mean to the relationship?
Dr S. Jaishankar: Our bilateral relationship is age old and time tested. Over the course of centuries, it has matured into a deep dynamic partnership. We have created institutional architectures to engage in a systematic manner and collaborate in various spheres of mutual importance. However, given the tremendous latent scope that exists in our partnership, we need a transformational change in the way we engage. The upgraded Joint Ministerial Commission in that sense is a reinvigorated tool that will help us deliver to the aims and aspirations of the leadership and the peoples of our two countries.
AT: Can you describe your visit to Kuwait? Can you give a brief discussion of meetings with Kuwaiti officials.
Dr Jaishankar: This is my first visit to this beautiful and friendly country of Kuwait. I have been received with so much warmth and affection, I am touched and honored. I had excellent official engagements yesterday with the leadership of the country. I had a call on His Highness Sheikh Sabah Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of the State of Kuwait. I handed over a letter to him from Hon’ble Prime Minister of India addressed to His Highness the Amir of the State of Kuwait. I held bilateral talks with my counterpart His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of State of Kuwait. We had a comprehensive dialogue touching upon every aspect of our bilateral partnership. I am glad that we signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on domestic workers. The MoU, I believe is a significant development which will help in further streamlining manpower recruitment. I am excited to carry forward all the substantive and I must say progressive discussions we have had during the talks. There is so much enthusiasm on both sides to catapult this relationship to a significantly higher level. His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Issa Al Salman, Minister of Commerce and Industry also participated in the discussions on strengthening bilateral trade, economic and commercial engagements. I see strong complementarities between the two countries and look forward to achieving tangible results.
AT: Kuwait recently assisted India in its fight against COVID. There was commitment from the Kuwaiti leadership to ensure all possible assistance be delivered to India. How do you describe this special gesture?
Dr Jaishankar: Like I mentioned earlier, relations between India and Kuwait are millennia old. They are deep rooted, anchored in strong people- to-people relations and have been sustained and nourished by civilizational affinities and vibrant exchanges at all levels. We have been standing by each other’s side at all times. Last year, during the peak of the first wave of COVID crisis, India had responded to Kuwait’s call for help by dispatching a 15-member medical team to augment the healthcare infrastructure of this country. In February earlier this year, India again immediately dispatched 200,000 doses of Made-in-India Covishield vaccine to Kuwait. When we went through the second wave in India, we in turn benefited from Kuwait’s generosity. It was one of the first and largest foreign suppliers of medical oxygen during this crisis period. I am extremely grateful to the leadership of the State of Kuwait. There was never a moment of hesitancy. This signifies the strength and depth of our relationship.
AT: This year marks the 60th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Kuwait. Do you have any special plans on this important milestone?
Dr Jaishankar: We have a confluence of milestones this year. This year Kuwait celebrates its 60th anniversary of its Independence. And as the one of the first countries to have recognized Kuwait’s independence, we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between our two countries. This year is also the year where we have launched the 2-year long celebrations of the 75th Anniversary of Independence of India. Such confluence is a rare occurrence; and therefore it must be celebrated in an appropriate manner. When I say celebrations, I do not just mean festivals; I am talking in a broader manner. We have just upgraded our institutional engagement architecture; I look forward to increased official interactions which will be a celebration of the strength of our institutional engagements. We are creating a new economic chapter with the launch of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Mission and other flagship programs of Government of India as part of a vision to build a New India. Kuwait is charting its own Vision of New Kuwait, one which has diversification of the economy at its core. I look forward to increased business collaborations, trade events, and bilateral visits of high level business delegations from both sides and a whole lot more; this is what I would call celebration of the partnership of the future. And of course, we have centuries of shared civilizational history, so I would like to see celebrations in the domain of culture, art, sports and a plethora of other areas.
AT: Indian healthcare sector is world renowned; we have many Indian medical professionals working here in Kuwait. Is there any scope to explore a special partnership in this domain?
Dr Jaishankar: Yes, definitely. We also have an existing Joint Working Group and a MoU in the domain of medical cooperation. We are reinvigorating this existing mechanism. Healthcare is one area which I would call is the low hanging fruit. The time is also ripe to explore forging a special partnership in the healthcare domain as we battle the ongoing pandemic together. I am well aware of the excellent work being done by Indian medical professionals, including doctors, nurses and other para-medical staff in Kuwait. India is a leading destination for healthcare in the world. India’s expertise, talent reservoir and world class offerings in this domain are noteworthy. Our two sides have already started discussing further enhancing collaboration in this important field.
AT: How do you see India’s current and long-term role in the region; and also in the world as a major geopolitico- economic power?
Dr Jaishankar: This region is India’s extended neighborhood. The region, and its peace and stability, has from times immemorial been and will continue to remain crucial for the progress and the development of our country. We have shared views on many of the global issues, be it our commitment to reform the world order to reflect the realities of the 21st century and our keenness to work together to address contemporary challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, sustainable development and terrorism. We will continue to work closely with our partners in the region and deepen our engagement across all spheres. As far India’s role at the global stage is concerned, we will continue to be a major pillar of the rebalanced international world order across the political and economic domains
By Paul Francis X. Fernandes Arab Times Staff