My dear Fellow Citizens,
On the joyous occasion of our 68th Independence Day, I extend my warm greetings to all members of Indian community in Kuwait and thank our Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti friends alike for their sincere good wishes. On this historic day we pay homage to all who selflessly and courageously fought for India’s freedom, and remember with deep gratitude the brave sentinels of our frontiers and our compatriots who have over the years sacrificed their lives for the safety and security of our Nation.
As we celebrate, we rejoice at our achievements since our independence in 1947, and rededicate ourselves to build an India in which every citizen will be able to realize his/her full potential and be full of happiness. The largest, most diverse democracy in the world, buttressed by a free media and an independent and impartial judiciary, India is committed to tolerance, harmony, equality, justice, and the rule of law. It is deeply satisfying to see our country of 1.2 billion people, characterized by vast linguistic, religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, confidently and unitedly marching ahead as one Nation. This year in April-May, we held our 16th General Elections to our Lok Sabha where people have given a huge mandate to the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for growth, progress and development of the country.
Since her independence, India has secured a unique and respected place in the comity of nations. And our successes have been significant and praiseworthy. With a large skilled workforce, dynamic and innovative entrepreneurs, plentiful scientific and technical manpower, diversified industrial base, rich natural base, a rapidly growing middle class with a strong market, India has emerged as an attractive business and investment destination. It is a software powerhouse and a global sourcing hub, especially, for IT-enabled services and business process outsourcing. The world has recognized India's intellectual, technical and engineering skills.
Indian economy is poised to achieve annual GDP growth of 7-8% in next 3-4 years. In terms of Purchasing Power Parity, India has become the 3rd largest economy in the world. Indian Rupee which had depreciated in late 2013, regained lost ground and has been gradually strengthening in recent months owing to measures taken by the Government and the Reserve Bank of India. India’s Foreign exchange reserve has increased to USD 320 billion. With these developments on external account, the Indian economy is better prepared to confront the challenges of global economic policy.
Infrastructure is critical for India’s economic development. With a view to removing infrastructure bottlenecks, in the current Five Year Plan (2012-17), we aim to invest USD 1 trillion in infrastructure sector alone with a special focus on energy as an imperative for sustaining high growth. India stands out as one of a few countries where substantial growth is taking place and profits are being made; and it has one of the most liberal, transparent and investor-friendly Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policies among emerging economies. Significant changes have been made in the FDI policy regime in recent times to ensure that India remains an increasingly attractive investment destination. India is also a major source of investment abroad, in both developing and developed countries, so as to access high-growth markets, technologies and knowledge, attain economies of size and scale, and leverage international brand names. Since January 2014, total investment flows to India reached USD 25 billion. The Government has proposed the setting up of an institution to provide support to mainstream Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), called 3P India, with a corpus of Rs 500 crore to rejuvenate the entire universe of PPP. To stop the migration from rural areas to urban areas, the Government has proposed the development of 100 “smart cities” in India, which will be developed as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities.
Agriculture remains central to India’s economy. The livelihood security of an incredibly large number of farm families is linked to agriculture. We are today a leading producer of several food commodities - cereals, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and fish. We have produced 255 million tonnes of food grains in 2012-13 after setting a record of 259 million tonnes in the previous year. Healthy agricultural growth has improved food security along with nutritional security.
India has achieved "near universal education” at the primary school. Today, our higher educational infrastructure consists of over 650 universities and 33,000 colleges. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the largest welfare scheme of its kind in the world and has reduced the migration from rural areas. Direct benefit transfer and Aadhaar card are giving people access to direct benefit transfer. Right to information and e-governance has helped in ensuring transparency and accountability in the Government functionaries. Among the anti-corruption measures, the Government has brought Lokpal Act, as also the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, Grievance Redressal Bill, and Amendment to Prevention of Corruption Act.
Over the years, India has made significant advancements in various spheres of science and technology. India's achievements in the field of IT and software are acknowledged all over the world; and it has positioned itself among the top five nations in the world in the field of space exploration. It has also become the fourth country to launch a spacecraft to Mars with ‘Mangalyaan’. The Mars orbiter spacecraft which is scheduled to enter the Mars orbit by September 2014.
On the foreign policy front, India will continue to work with other countries to tackle issues of common concern, such as international terrorism, climate change, energy security, food security, and the reform of multilateral institutions to reflect contemporary realities. India has consistently been at the forefront of the fight against terrorism. India has had long-standing friendship with the countries of the GCC, which is India’s largest trading partner, the dominant source of our energy requirements (about 70 %) and home to about 7 million Indians.
India and Kuwait have close, historical and multifaceted ties which have been consolidated by the close people-to-people contacts. Our relationships extend beyond historical and cultural linkages to encompass political, trade and economic interests. Kuwait is an important partner in India’s quest for energy security and the bilateral trade was about USD 18.21 billion during the financial year 2013-14. Regular High-level exchanges present an opportunity to reaffirm friendships and explore new avenues of cooperation. The visit of His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister of Kuwait to India in November 2013 imparted a new momentum to the growing bilateral ties. Prominent visits from India in 2014 included those of Minister of State for External Affairs Mr. E. Ahamed, Mr. Yashwant Sinha, and Minister of Minority Affairs Mr. K. Rahman Khan. Intergovernmental Joint Working Groups on Hydrocarbons; and on Labour, Employment and Manpower Development were convened in Kuwait in June 2014. The Foreign Office Consultations between the two countries is slated to be held in September 2014.
The presence of a strong and vibrant Indian community in Kuwait adds a vital dimension to our friendship. Our work-ethic, peace loving nature, professionalism and sincerity have been appreciated by one and all in Kuwait and our community is contributing to socio-economic development of Kuwait. We are very grateful for the care and benevolence bestowed on our community by His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Crown Prince of Kuwait and His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, the Prime Minister of Kuwait.
It has been the constant endeavour of the Embassy to improve the quality of its services given to the community. Responding to growing demand arising from enhanced bilateral interaction, as well as long-pending demand from the Indian community, the new service provider of the Embassy for outsourcing of passport and visa services M/s Cox and Kings Global Services, working in collaboration with its local partner M/s Al Qabas Assurex General Trading and Contracting Company W.L.L., has opened an additional centre for passport services at Jleeb Al Shuyoukh (Abbasiya) from 3 August 2014, in addition to centres at Sharq and Fahaheel. Our “Indian Workers Welfare Center” which includes a help desk to guide Indians on immigration, employment, etc, the labour complaints desk, a free legal advice clinic and an employment contract attestation system are working well. To improve access of Indian community to the officers of the Embassy and reach us on 24 X 7 basis, we have provided our office telephone and mobile numbers on the Embassy’s website. We are helping from our Community Welfare Fund everyone who is in financial distress by providing free air ticket to return to India. It has been our commitment to provide top-quality consular services and welfare support for all Indians in Kuwait. To facilitate travel of Kuwaiti nationals as well all expatriates residing in Kuwait to India, the Embassy provides multi-entry business visas (5-year and 1-year), tourism visas (6-month), medical visas (1-year) and visas for study purposes. The Embassy is issuing visas the same working day with promptness and in a courteous manner.
On this happy occasion of India’s independence, as we commit ourselves anew to serve our beloved Nation, I would like to wish good health, progress and prosperity to all Indians in Kuwait. Long live India-Kuwait friendship!