Recently I visited India for the first time. As I got off the plane at New Delhi I was amazed at the swanky Indira Gandhi International Airport. The new Terminal 3 is acclaimed to be one of the largest in the world and one is impressed with this mega-structure which spreads across 5.5 million square feet with 8 levels. My first impression was one of awe. I swiftly completed the airport formalities assisted by courteous officials and exited to the hustle and bustle of the outside world. New Delhi, the capital of India, is truly a wonderful place. Its architecture is splendid.
I visited India Gate which is a war memorial dating back to World War I. I was truly intrigued by the layout of the bustling central shopping and business area known as Connaught Place. It is a well- planned circular complex with an outer and inner circle. It is well connected to all parts of Delhi by the Metro Rail. There are several malls in Delhi which are comparable to malls found anywhere in the world. I found the shopping excellent with good value for money. From New Delhi I visited Jaipur the capital of the northern state of Rajasthan. Known as the Rose Pink City, Jaipur’s massive forts, the opulence of the Maharajas palaces, the sunset camel safari along the sand dunes and the splendid desert captures the very essence of Rajasthan. The Arab traveler will feel at home in Rajasthan. All along the side of the desert you will find cultivation which is a rare sight in the Arab world. It is springtime throughout the year. This is paradise with no need to fight for grass or water as was common in the Arab world of the past. Jaipur’s exquisite jewelry and intricate works of art are world renowned. Its lush gardens and floral abundance captivate you. Jaipur is a classic blend of heritage, culture and art.
India and Kuwait enjoy traditionally friendly relations even before the discovery of oil. Geographic proximity, historical trade links, cultural affinities and the presence of nearly 700,000 Indian expatriates in Kuwait strengthens this long standing relationship. India has been a dependable trading partner and buys slightly over 10 percent of its total crude oil requirements from Kuwait.
As Kuwaitis, we have very strong links with India since time immemorial. A collection of jewelry, seals and pottery discovered in Failaka Island which used to be a convenient passage for ships sailing between the Mesopotamia and India confirm that relations existed even as early the fourth millennium BC. Long before the discovery of oil in the country, Kuwaiti sailors used to sail from Shatt-al-Arab to the ports of western coasts in India, carrying dates and horses of fine pedigree. The trade in horses stopped at the end of World War II in 1945 and Kuwaitis began trading in pearls with India and in exchange took teakwood for ship building. Kuwaitis played a major role in five principal harbors in India according to Mohammed Abdulaziz Al Shaya, a renowned Kuwaiti businessman. Until 1961, the Indian Rupee was the legal tender in Kuwait.
In India I found that Kuwaitis have built mosques, hospitals and educational institutions for the benefit of all. In old Kuwait City, I found a mosque built as early as 1795 by Mohammed Rizq with financial support from India. This goes to prove the strong interaction between the people of Kuwait and India. Everywhere I went, I found the Indian people to be very kind, courteous and helpful. Indians accept us and treat us with respect everywhere. We do not feel like foreigners in India.
The geography and climate of India is so varied that it cannot be generalized as its changes from region to region. The seasons of India are mainly summer, winter and off course the rainy season. India is one of the most fascinating countries to travel to. Rail and air facilities connect various places. In India geography, ethnicity, languages, cultures and habits of people are so varied that in every state of India you will notice a new culture and a new language. In fact, tour guides proudly tell you that in India you will find change after every 50 kilometers. This makes India truly a favorable tourist destination.
It is common knowledge that we in Kuwait look towards the West for several products and services. But now you find that they themselves are looking towards India. India’s IT services are an acknowledged world leader. Medical tourism in India renowned for its professionalism has been gaining ground. Isn’t it ironic that many of us go to the United States of America for serious medical conditions and get treated there by an Indian doctor while we can go to India for the same treatment at a fraction of the cost and within three hours flying time? In fact when I went for a consultation with an Indian doctor in New York I was billed $500 whereas in India I would not have been charged more than $10 for consultation. I feel that Kuwait which is exploring external avenues to invest should consider investing in India. India provides long term prospects for better returns. India has very fine institutions and regulatory authorities for investor protection.
A part of Kuwait’s huge surplus of funds may be invested in diversified fields such as telecommunications, financial sector/services, banking, agriculture, health, medicine, biotechnology, pharma, real estate, R&D, etc. Individual Kuwaitis will find India a safe investment destination as it was in the past and so will it be in the future.
A unique aspect of the Indian way of life is the fact that communities of all religions generally live in peace and harmony without the need to resort to constant fighting. This is a lesson for all of us.
I returned from India with a greater respect for its people, its culture and its heritage. India opened my mind to immense possibilities. On my return I regretted that I had not visited India much earlier in my life. But now I intend to visit India more frequently and discover the various facets of the glory that is India. I am confident that India and Kuwait will definitely treasure the past as it builds a glorious future together.
Courtesy: The Times, Kuwait
(The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer)
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