India and Kuwait decide to establish joint ministerial commission to expand ties

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New Delhi, Mar 18 (PTI) India and Kuwait on Thursday decided to establish a joint ministerial commission that will formulate a framework to strengthen ties in sectors like energy, trade, investment, manpower and labour and information technology.

The decision was taken during talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his visiting Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah.

Al-Sabah handed over to Jaishankar a letter from Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

It said the Kuwaiti foreign minister thanked India for supplying to his country with 200,000 doses of 'Made in India' Covishield vaccines.

In their deliberations, the two foreign ministers explored ways and means to impart further dynamism in the traditional and friendly ties, whlie Jaishankar invited more investments from Kuwait into India in sectors like energy, infrastructure, food security, healthcare and education, the MEA said in a statement.

It said the joint commission at the level of foreign ministers will steer the relationship and will act as an umbrella body for all bilateral institutional engagements.

A joint statement said the commission will be tasked to formulate the required basis to strengthen ties in the fields of energy, trade, economy, investment, human resources, manpower and labour, finance, culture, information technology, health, education, defence and security.

Ahead of the talks, Al-Sabah told a group of reporters on Wednesday evening that that the 'catalogue of cooperation' between India and Kuwait is vast and that there were lots of avenues to explore further.

'We have all the keenness and intention to further promote it (cooperation) to a higher level,' he said.

The minister also allayed concerns over a bill that aimed to limit the number of foreign nationals, saying it was for those staying illegally in the country.

'They (Indians) share with us our bread and butter. They have contributed very much and are still contributing in our development and strengthening very much our cooperation,' he said.

'The Indian community is an element of security of Kuwait and also an integral part of the new generation ahead as they are also very much involved in our education system. The bill that has been discussed last year was only for the illegal expats in Kuwait,' the minister said.

'It is not designated for any nationalities. We have over 170 nationalities in Kuwait. It (the bill) was only for those who are residing illegally,' he added.

The minister also said that Kuwait is looking at India and the world community to help revive the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.

'We think that the peace process is very important. We think that now it is the opportune time to revive the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis,' he said.

He further said it (the peace process) needs the understanding and the support of the whole international community, including India.

Meanwhile, the joint statement said the commission will also review agreements concluded between the two countries and find suitable solutions for any issues in their implementation.

Apart from the existing joint working groups (JWGs) on hydrocarbons, manpower and mobility, and healthcare, new JWGs on trade and investments, defence and security etc are envisaged to be established, the MEA said.

On his part, Jaishankar thanked the leadership and the government of Kuwait for hosting a large Indian community and taking care of them during the pandemic.

'He hoped that Indian community will be able to resume travel to Kuwait in larger numbers soon. He also expressed India's continued support to the State of Kuwait in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,' the MEA said.

It said both the sides emphasised the need to enhance cooperation in the area of health security.

Both the ministers also reviewed the latest regional and international developments, and agreed to coordinate closely on issues of mutual interest in multilateral forums.

India is amongst the largest trading partners of Kuwait.

'There are significant opportunities for further strengthening and deepening ties in sectors such as energy, trade, healthcare, defence and security, science and technology, IT, cyber security, culture, education and tourism,' the MEA said.

Earlier, Jaishankar welcomed the Kuwaiti foreign minister to India.

'Glad to welcome this morning, along with @MOS_MEA, FM @anmas71 of Kuwait. Productive discussions on our bilateral agenda & regional developments,' Jaishankar said on Twitter.

'Will co-chair Joint Commission with him to elevate our relationship further,' he added. PTI MPB KJ KJ