On the joyous occasion of 65th Republic Day of India, I extend my warm greetings to all members of the Indian community in Kuwait and thank our Kuwaiti friends and well-wishers for their warm greetings.
On 26 January 1950, the Constitution of India came into force. It reflects the vision and wisdom of our founding fathers, as well as our ideals and values. On this day an independent India became a sovereign, secular, and democratic Republic. Over the last six decades of our existence as a Republic, India has secured a place for itself in the comity of nations as a country committed to universal harmony, justice and equality. We are proud citizens of the largest, most diverse, and vibrant democracy in the world, which is underpinned by the rule of law, a free media and an independent judiciary.
The last two decades have witnessed transformational changes in the Indian economy. We have been among the fastest growing major democratic economy in the world. We are already the third largest economy in purchasing power parity terms. Although India's economic growth somewhat declined to the decade low of 5 per cent in 2012-13, it grew by over nine per cent before it was hit by the global crisis of 2008. The World Bank in its recent report has emphasized that Growth in India will be led by recovery in global demand and an increase in domestic investment and expects the Indian economy to expand 6.2% in 2014-15. The Government has undertaken a series of reforms since late 2012 to improve the business environment, growth and create jobs.
We are globally among the top 20 exporters of goods and the top 10 services exporters. We are also a leading food producer in the world – the largest producer of milk and the second largest of fruits and vegetables. Owing to its excellent Information Technology and Information Technology-enabled services sectors, India is a software giant and an outsourcing hub, especially for business and knowledge process. Some cutting edge products and services are being developed in India both by multinational companies as well as Indian companies. The government’s policies aim at achieving rapid growth with social justice and equity.
India has made remarkable progress in Space Technology and Planetary Exploration in the last decade and took major strides in utilizing the operational space systems in various fronts of national development – commercial, strategic, societal and economic. India successfully launched a spacecraft to Mars on November 5, 2013 setting the country on course to become the first in Asia to reach the Red Planet. The successful flight testing of indigenous cryogenic stage onboard GSLV-D5 Flight on January 5, 2014 was a major landmark technological milestone in achieving self-reliance in India’s cryogenic Launch Vehicle Technology.
Infrastructure is critical for India’s economic development. In the last 5-year plan that ended on March 31, 2012 we spent about US$ 500 billion on infrastructure. In the current five-year plan, we aim to invest US$ one trillion. To encourage foreign investment in the country, the Government last year announced a slew of policy measures. Even as India is attracting foreign investment, Indian companies have been reaching out to the world with the purpose of investing in various sectors. Our companies have appreciably invested overseas in the last few years through mergers and acquisitions or via direct investments, which has helped them access high-growth markets, acquire knowledge and technology, attain economies of size and scale, and leverage international brand names. Besides physical connectivity we are also creating electronic connectivity. We are one of the fastest growing telecom markets in the world. Energy is the prime mover of economic growth. Last year we added new capacity of over 20,000 MWs. However, mindful of protecting the environment, India is moving towards alternative sources of energy like nuclear, wind and solar.
India continues to be a preferred destination for foreign investors. India has attracted Foreign Direct Investment worth US$ 16.85 billion during January-September 2013. Since opening of the economy, Indian Capital Markets have undergone a paradigm shift in the last two decades, offering unprecedented prospects for global investors and business. The recent scheme of allowing Qualified Foreign Investors (QFIs) to invest in Indian equity, mutual funds and corporate bonds have evoked interest in the Gulf region as well.
Sustained high rates of growth have enabled us to pursue our agenda of inclusive and equitable growth and devote more resources to the societal sector such as eradicating poverty, malnutrition, diseases and illiteracy as well as eliminating rural-urban divide, social inequalities, and regional disparities. The government has initiated a number of social development programmes aimed at inclusive growth like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojna etc. In 2013, the Government enacted the Food Security Law, which will benefit 75 % of our rural population and half of our urban population. This is the largest effort of its kind in the whole world. India has implemented many schemes of scholarships on a large scale to enable poor children and those belonging to the weaker sections to access opportunities for education. About 110 million children are being provided afternoon meals everyday in schools under the Mid-day Meal Scheme and this Programme is of immense benefit for both education and nutrition of children. Our strength in IT is being leveraged in transforming governance and implementing welfare schemes.
As a responsible nation, the conduct of our foreign relations since Independence in 1947 has been to promote peace and development. India seeks mutually beneficial relations with all countries in the world and towards this end, is working with them on issues of common concern like terrorism, climate change, global economic crisis, and energy & food security. Our experience of tackling developmental challenges within a democratic framework and our emphasis on building convergences and consensus have helped us play a key role in addressing international challenges as well as promoting peace, progress and prosperity globally.
The Gulf region, a part of our extended neighbourhood, is an important area of our foreign policy. India has vital stakes in the security and stability of the entire Gulf and the Middle East region which hosts around 7 million Indians. The region is the source of roughly two-third of India’s crude oil requirements and is the largest trading region for us accounting for over 26% of our global trade.
India’s relations with Kuwait are longstanding, close and growing. We have been an integral part of each other’s life and consciousness for generations. Our engagement has been multifaceted and continues to grow. Our relationship extends beyond historical and cultural linkages to encompass political, trade and economic interests. Total bilateral trade with Kuwait during 2012-13 was US$ 17.649 billion. India has consistently been among Kuwait’s top trading partners and recent years have witnessed new opportunities opening up in sectors like human resource, medical tourism, hospitality and IT. Kuwaiti investment to India is around $ 3 billion and is growing continuously. Kuwait Investment Authority is considering to make more investments into India, in addition to recent equity investment of $ 5.37 million in the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd.
High-level visits and other exchanges between our two countries have provided the platform to further strengthen bilateral relations and explore new avenues of cooperation. His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait made a State visit to India from November 7-10, 2013. During the visit, Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons, MOU between Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and the Saud N. Al-Sabah Kuwait Diplomatic Institute, MOU on Cooperation in the field of Sports & Youth Affairs, Executive Programme for Cultural and Information Exchanges (2013-16) and Educational Exchange Program on Cooperation in Education and Learning (2013-16) were signed. Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs H.E. Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah visited India in March 2013.
Hon’ble Shri E. Ahamed, Minister of State for External Affairs (MOS-EA) visited Kuwait on January 15, 2014 to represent India at the 2nd International Pledging Conference for Syria. Last year’s visits included those by MOS-EA twice and Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission visited Kuwait in July 2013 to encourage greater investments from Kuwait to India. Institutional mechanisms like Joint Working Groups on Labour, Employment and Manpower as well as Medical Cooperation were convened last year. Both sides have been working closely to further intensify engagements at all levels.
Indian community in Kuwait plays an important role in strengthening bilateral ties. It is present in practically every segment of Kuwaiti society. It has a reputation for being industrious, talented, disciplined and law abiding. Our community’s contribution to the development and prosperity of Kuwait is recognized. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude for the benevolence bestowed on the Indian community by His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed Al Jaber Al Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, and for the goodwill of the friendly people of Kuwait.
The Embassy has been consistently trying to improve the quality of its services. To facilitate travel of Kuwaiti nationals to India for business, tourism, medical and study purposes, the Embassy has liberalized its visa policy. The Embassy has taken several measures for the welfare of the Indian community in Kuwait. Our community can now reach us on 24x7, in cases of emergency. The Embassy is also working to open early an outsource center at Abbasiya, where a significant number of Indian community resides. We are trying to strengthen our Community Welfare Fund so that anyone who is in distress can be provided air ticket, medical treatment etc from this Fund.
The Embassy has the “Consular Open House” facility where any Indian citizen can meet a senior consular official without appointment for any unresolved matter. In addition, the Embassy’s “Indian Workers Welfare Center” set up in September 2009 has been providing the much needed support system to our workers with its help desk, labour complaints desk, toll-free 24x7 telephonic helpline, free accommodation, free legal advice clinic and employment contract attestation system. I would like to take this opportunity to assure that the Embassy will spare no efforts in looking after the issues of concern to our community with maximum sensitivity and care.
On this joyous occasion of our Republic Day, as we commit ourselves again to serving our people, our motherland, and the larger cause of humanity, I wish every Indian in Kuwait good health, happiness and prosperity. I also take this opportunity to convey best wishes from the Indian leaders for the continued good health and well-being of HH the Amir, HH the Crown Prince, HH the Prime Minister, and the highly friendly people of the State of Kuwait.