By S A H Rizvi
When he set his foot on the India soil on 14 June 2006, it was a history in the making. This was HH Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah first official visit to any country after he assumed power as the new Amir in January that year. The gesture was an illustration of the Amir diplomatic sagacity that was seen as Kuwait endeavour to strengthen centuries old ties wih New Delhi and takes it to a new height.
The six-day visit of the Amir left a remarkable footprint in the Indo Kuwait relations, which continues to add new chapter of co-operation and mutual understanding on all international issues, a grand legacy that the Amir had left behind.
The Amir of Kuwait arrived in New Delhi on a six-day state visit starting from 14 June 2006, the first by a ruler of the Gulf country in more than 20 years to a rousing welcome. On his arrival, the Amir was received by the then President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and was accorded a grand ceremonial reception at the forecourt of the majestic President House by the three wings of the Indian Defence forces.
“We are ready to discuss all issues, which could serve the interests of both India and Kuwait and we hope this visit will be a cornerstone in the tradition between our two countries, this tradition, which goes back in history.” the Amir set the tone in his brief address after the ceremonial reception.
During his visit, India and Kuwait inked three pacts– Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty (DTAT), Agreement on Drugs and Narcotics and Agreement on Cooperation in Culture.
The then President of India Business Council, Kuwait , S K Wadhawan who led a delegation of prominent Indian NRI s recalls how Amir Sheikh Sabah casted his diplomatic spell on the three forums FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM at a business meet in a five star hotel in New Delhi.
“ HH tranced the captains of India business industry with his frankness, openness and even instructed some lessons on business. He was just amazing in what I say business diplomacy”
Wadhawan said prior to the functuion he had met the Amir along with a three member delegation which also included KITCO Chairman Dhiraj Oberoi in his hotel lounge and discussed various issues of bilateral business interest. “ He was so attentive and thanked us for coming all the way from Kuwait to welcome him”
Wadhawan is among the oldest NRI in Kuwait having landed in the country in 1957. At that time, Kuwait had scant electricity and potable water used to come in tanker from Basra in Iraq. In 1963, Wadhawan set up his own group “Samara” dealing in automobiles and soon it became one of the leading group in the country.
“ I told HH the Amir how Kuwait gave us opportunity and how the leadership encouraged us to move forward”
Later Wadhawan, recepient of many national and international awards, also accompanied the Amir on his trip to Mumbai which was both nostalgic and business oriented as well Top echelon of Mumbai industrial world hosted a function in his honour. “HH enjoyed every moment of his stay in Mumbai recalling how his people would travel to this city” recalled Wadhawan
“ Imagine more than four decades as Kuwait Foreign Minister, the Amir was the epitome of diplomacy and steered his country among the top nation in the world engaged in peace and stability”. Wadhawan said in his tribute
Indian government has declared national mourning on 4 October cancelling all functions and the national flag will fly at half-mast. External Affair Minister S Jaishankar also visited the Kuwait embassy to sign the condolence book on behalf of the Indian Government
In his statement, Minister Jaishankar said His Highness Sheikh Sabah al Ahmad al Sabah was exceptionally well regarded in India and had contributed a lot in the building of relationship. “His passing away has shaken us and distressed us very badly “he said while expressing solidarity with the people of Kuwait