News report by Ayyoob Thayyil
NEW DELHI, June 6 (KUNA) -- By and large, India and GCC countries comprising Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain have historically enjoyed strong and friendly relations.
They have long-standing cultural and civilizational links, with economic and commercial ties having been cemented through cooperation in trade, investment, energy, tourism and education.
Immediately after Kuwait gained independence from the British in 1961, the leadership established diplomatic relations with India, as both sides have maintained close diplomatic, trade and investment relations and have cooperated on various international issues.
Energy is a key area of cooperation as Kuwait is a major oil-producing country, and India is one of the world's largest importers of crude oil and both sides have massive investment in oil and gas sectors in each other.
Bilateral trade between India and Kuwait is strong as India is a major exporter of goods and services to Kuwait as bilateral trade in 2021-2022 stood around USD 12.2 billion with Indiaآ’s import from Kuwait reaching USD 11.001 billion and export reaching USD 1.2 billion.
Healthcare, education, and culture are some of the other areas of cooperation. India accords substantial weight to Kuwait as a large Indian expatriate community is living and working in Kuwait. Kuwait has also shown considerable importance to India as the Indian community in Kuwait is one of the largest expatriate communities in the country.
Ties between India and Saudi Arabia are also historically grounded. Apart from sharing strong cultural and economic ties, both sides have a strong stake in each other in the energy, trade, and security sectors.
Saudi Arabia is a major exporter of oil to India which is heavily dependent on importing oil and gas for its huge economic growth. Saudi Arabia is India's fourth-largest trading partner which is fortified by several agreements. Bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia was valued at USD 42.8 billion with India's imports from Saudi Arabia touching USD 34.01 billion and exports to Saudi Arabia accounting for USD 8.76 billion in 2021-2022. Indian infrastructure and manufacturing sectors are witnessing unprecedented Saudi investment.
Security, defence, counterterrorism and tourism are some other areas both the countries are engaged in. Centuries of cultural and people-to-people ties are existing between India and Saudi Arabia.
For centuries, India and the UAE have had strong trade links and traditionally dates, pearls and fishes dominated the trade. However, after the UAE started exporting oil and gas, the nature and volume of trade underwent tremendous changes especially after Dubai became a trading hub and India started economic liberalization.
Increasing economic and commercial ties strengthened the relationship between the two countries and both are searching for new avenues of cooperation for mutual benefits. The UAE was the third largest trading partner of India after the US and China in 2021-22 as bilateral trade reached USD 73 billion.
In the same period, India's export to the UAE crossed USD 28 billion to become the second largest export destination of India after the US. Last year, a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement was signed during the Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Modi and UAE President Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
India historically maintained cooperative ties with Qatar and both sides have strong energy, trade, defence and investment links. India is heavily dependent on Qatar for liquefied natural gas as the latter is among the largest producers of gas in the world and Qatar is keen to invest in India's infrastructure, real estate, and hospitality sectors.
Defence, security, and counterterrorism are other major planks of cooperation between the two sides. As with other GCC countries, the Indian expatriate community in Qatar is among the largest. Bilateral trade of India with Qatar in 2021-22 was USD 15.03 billion with export accounting for USD 1.83 billion and Indiaآ’s import from Qatar accounting for USD 13.19 billion. India was the fourth largest export destination for Qatar and the third largest source of imports in 2021.
Liquefied Natural Gas, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, chemicals and petrochemicals, plastics, fertilisers and aluminium were Qatarآ’s major exports to India. Cereals, copper articles, iron and steel articles, vegetables, fruits, spices, and processed food products, electrical and other machinery, plastic products, construction materials, textiles and garments, chemicals, precious stones and rubber were Indiaآ’s major exports to Qatar.
Oman has also maintained a friendly and long-standing relationship with India and the bilateral cooperation spans energy, tourism, trade, and security among others. India is heavily dependent on energy from Oman as well while the latter is a major export destination for India as textiles, pharmaceuticals, and engineering products are some of the major Indian goods exported to Oman.
The ties are further cemented by cooperation in defence, security, and cultural exchange programmes in addition to naval exercises. In 2021-22, bilateral trade between India and Oman touched USD 9.9 billion, as Indian export to Oman accounted for USD 3.1 billion and import was estimated at USD 6.8 billion.
Bahrain too has traditionally held friendly and cooperative relations with India. Trade, investment, and people-to-people ties are very strong between the two sides. Bahrain's largest trading partner of India and a substantial expatriate community, investment in oil and gas and infrastructure have helped cement the ties. Indian help in healthcare, human resource development and cultural and people-to-people ties are major aspects of India-Bahrain relationship. Bilateral trade between India and Bahrain stood at USD 1.6 billion in 2021-22.
In a nutshell, India-GCC cooperation is strong in trade, energy, investment, remittance, tourism, defence and security, agriculture, healthcare, education, technology, space, banking and finance, climate change, counter terrorism, shipping, aviation and transportation.
High level exchange of visits from both the sides have helped consolidate the ties and dispelled apprehensions. India has often expressed its objection to the oil and gas prices. Labour issues and the treatment of Indian expatriates in the GCC countries, trade barriers, terrorism and security issues have often been bone of contention between the two sides.
In November 2022, India and GCC announced the intent to pursue negotiations on the India-GCC Free Trade Agreement and decided to expedite the legal and technical requirements. It is expected to generate jobs and help raise living standards in addition to providing wider social and economic opportunities on both sides. The GCC is considered Indiaآ’s largest trading partner bloc as bilateral trade in 2001-22 stood at USD 110 billion. (end)