I convey my best wishes to the members of our community as well as our many, many friends, well-wishers and admirers in Kuwait on the auspicious occasion of India’s 67th Republic Day. Also, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the rule of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, I have the honour to convey our heartiest greetings and profound regards from Indian leaders to His Highness for his good health and well-being and continued peace and prosperity to the people of Kuwait.
On 26 January 1950, the Constitution of modern India came into force, laying strong foundations of a democratic and secular State. During these years, our Constitution has remained steadfast, yet flexible, to accommodate various changes which the people of India desired and the manifold challenges India faced. The Indian Constitution is a beacon for the socio-economic and political transformation of India whose civilization has witnessed pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill among diverse communities in all aspects, be it religion, language, ethnicity, political ideology, customs, or geography. There are constitutional guarantees to ensure diversity, assuring equal respect for all faiths and religions. India, therefore, is a great example of unity in diversity. A vibrant democracy has been India’s most enduring identity ever since India adopted its Constitution in 1950 that made it a democratic Republic with universal adult suffrage. The current Government under the dynamic leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken various initiatives towards realizing the aspirations of its 1.2 billion people by improving the business environment, growth and creation of jobs in the country; and the intensity of India’s international engagement has greatly increased.
In an international environment where economic growth is modest, India today stands as a bright spot among the global economies. India has been the world’s fastest growing economy in 2015 and is expected to remains so in 2016. India enjoys among the best growth prospects in the coming decade. Indian Rupee has remained stable during the past few years. Coupled with stable political environment, our macroeconomic fundamentals such as high economic growth, low inflation and relatively low fiscal deficit has made India one of the most preferred investment destinations in the world. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest report has projected India's growth for 2015 at 7.3%, and rising to 7.5% in 2016. FDI flows to India during the year 2014-2015 reached US$ 44 billion.
The Government of India has set an ambitious dateline for 2016 with regard to the implementing of Goods and Services Tax (GST). A clear cut roadmap for lowering corporate tax from 30% to 25% over the next 4 years has been laid down. FDI limits have been liberalized (100% in railways, 49% in insurance, and 49% in defence which could go up to 100% on case-to-case basis). As a result of these measures, India has substantially moved up its rankings on a global index of the world's most competitive economies compiled by the World Economic Forum which underlines India’s continued economic buoyancy, improvement in the competitiveness of the country's institutions and its macroeconomic environment. Ernst & Young ranked India No.1 attractive investment destination globally; IMF ranked India No.1 amongst the world’s fastest growing economies; Financial Times, UK ranked India No.1 as Greenfield Foreign Direct Investment destination during the period January-June 2015. Moody's ratings revised India's sovereign rating outlook to "positive" from "stable".
We are particularly promoting our manufacturing sector, improving our services sector, investing in on unprecedented scale in infrastructure; and, making our cities smart, sustainable and the engines of progress. India is keen to scale up investments in next generation infrastructure including digital networks and clean energy as well as in our social, industrial and agri-infrastructure to give better income and quality of life to our people. About 800 million people in India are below the age of 35 years and their aspirations, energy, enterprise and skills will be the force for India’s economic transformation. With this in view, our Hon’ble Prime Minister launched the “Make in India” initiative. Since its launch, India has emerged among the top destinations globally for foreign direct investment in 2015 and we are working on all fronts to make India a global manufacturing hub. Many international companies viz. Spice Group, Samsung, Hitachi, Foxconn, Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenova, Boeing, Alstom and GE Transport have announced investing and setting up manufacturing plants in India. The Government of India is organizing a ‘Make in India Week’ from 13-18 February 2016 in Mumbai which would offer foreign participants unprecedented access, insights and opportunities to connect and collaborate with India and global industry leaders, academicians etc. A flexible PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model is being worked out; and many countries including the USA, Japan, China and Singapore, have promised to play a role under this scheme. Japan has agreed to build India’s first high speed train line between the financial hub of Mumbai and Ahmedabad.
We have the demographics but the challenge is to derive the dividend and to equip our working population with the requisite skills for the manufacturing sector. For this purpose, a separate Department of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has been set up. The Government’s policies aim at achieving rapid growth with social justice and equity. India is a software giant and an outsourcing hub, especially for business and knowledge processes. Some cutting-edge products and services are being developed in India both by multinational companies as well as Indian companies. India has made significant progress in Space Technology and Planetary Exploration. After the success of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission ‘Mangalyaan’, Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched six satellites for Singapore on 16 December 2015. ISRO has launched 17 foreign and four Indian satellites in 2015, including its GSAT-15 which was launched from French Guiana in November. Singapore has chosen Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle for its maiden commercial satellite launch which shows the trust they have in ISRO.
Our foreign policy is focused on a broad range of global issues that serve the broader interests of humanity. We work with other countries to tackle issues of common concerns, such as international terrorism, climate change, energy security, food security, and the reforms of multilateral institutions, including the UN Security Council. India’s support for Sustainable Development Goals emphasizes upliftment of all. Peace, non-violence and good neighbourly intentions have remained the fundamentals of our foreign policy. As inheritors of an old civilization that values its openness and diversity, India aspires to protect its values and project its own heritage on the global scene. The International Day of Yoga that was marked across the world in 2015, is a visible symbol of this development. India has consistently been at the forefront of the fight against international terrorism and believes that the progress of humanity lies in unity, peace, brotherhood and non-violence.
The Gulf region is an important part of our extended neighborhood. India has vital stakes in the security and stability of the entire region. GCC is one of our largest trading blocs, provides about 70% of India’s crude oil requirements and hosts about 7 million Indians. In 2014-15, India-GCC trade was over US$ 133 billion and accounted for about 18% of our global trade.
India’s relations with Kuwait have historically been warm, close and friendly. We have been an integral part of each other’s life and consciousness for generations. Our relationship extends beyond historical and cultural linkages to encompass political, trade and economic interests. During the Financial year 2014-15, Kuwait was India’s 4th largest crude oil supplier. India has consistently been among Kuwait’s top trading partners and the total bilateral trade during the Financial Year 2014-15 was US$ 14.58 billion. During the last two years, Indian EPC companies viz. Larsen & Toubro, Dodsal, Shapoorji Pallonji, Punj Lloyd, Essar, Simplex Project Ltd and Kalpataru Transmission Ltd. were awarded EPC contracts in Kuwait worth about US$ 6 billion in the hydrocarbon and construction sectors. The confidence of Kuwaiti investors in Indian economy has shown positive trends and recently Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) has made an investment of US$ 300 million in GMR Infrastructure Ltd., which operates the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi as well as in an IPO brought out by Interglobe Aviation, which operates Indigo airlines.
High-level visits and other exchanges between our two countries have helped 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 visited India in November 2013. During the visit, various Agreements and MOUs were signed. It is our endeavour that meetings under the bilateral institutional mechanisms like Joint Working Groups on Hydrocarbon; Labour, Employment and Manpower; and Foreign Office Consultations between the Foreign Ministries of the two countries are held regularly. The 4th meeting of the India-Kuwait Joint Working Group on Hydrocarbon was held in New Delhi on 15-16 September 2015. The Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons (TSP) between India and Kuwait, which was signed in November 2013, came into effect from 3 April 2015 on ratification by two sides. An MOU on bilateral cooperation between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) was signed on 30 September 2015. The 3rd Joint Ministerial Commission meeting is scheduled to be held in Kuwait this year. For improvement of air connectivity between our two countries, Kuwait Airways has started flights to Ahmedabad and Bangalore thrice in a week, while New Delhi flight is on a daily basis.
Indians historically have traversed the world and made their presence felt through their hard work, sincerity and commitment. The dynamic Indian community in Kuwait continues to play its cementing role in the strengthening of bilateral ties. It is present in practically all segments of Kuwaiti society and their contribution to the socio-economic development and prosperity of Kuwait has been highly appreciated.
With concerted efforts of Indian-Kuwaiti authorities, the illegal flow of female Indian domestic workers to Kuwait has been stopped and the recruitment of Indian nurses for work in Kuwait has been streamlined. To protect the interests of Indian workers coming to Kuwait, the Government of India has implemented the e-Migrate system since June 2015. Last year, the Embassy attested a total of 90,498 employment contracts (62,587 in private sector and 27,911 in domestic sector) for recruitment of Indian workers in Kuwait. The Embassy also issued 87,083 new passports in 2015, as compared to 75,031 in 2014, showing a healthy increase of 16%. Currently, there are 204 Indian Associations registered with the Embassy in Kuwait. During 2015, Embassy Auditorium was used for 48 socio-cultural events organized by various Indian Associations. To strengthen our services further, we are working on various suggestions received from our community during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) celebrated on 9 January 2016 in the Embassy. To boost travel of Kuwaiti nationals and expatriates in Kuwait to India, the Embassy has been providing multi-entry business visas (5-year and 1-year), tourism visas (6-month), medical visas (1-year) and visas for study purposes. The Embassy issued 13,259 visas in 2015, vis-a-vis 12,738 visas issued in 2014, which shows a modest increase of 4% compared to 2014.
The Embassy has been consistently trying to improve the quality of its services and has taken several measures for the welfare of the Indian community in Kuwait. Our community can reach us on 24x7, in cases of emergency. The Embassy has the “Consular Open House” facility where any Indian national can meet a senior consular official without appointment. 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, free accommodation and free initial legal advice. I would like to assure that the Embassy will spare no efforts in looking after the issues of concern to our community with utmost sensitivity and care.
On this joyous occasion of our Republic Day, I once again wish every Indian national in Kuwait good health and happiness. May the bonds of friendship between India and Kuwait continue to be nourished and nurtured in the years ahead!