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NEW DELHI : Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar is likely to visit Kuwait this week, three people familiar with the development said separately on Sunday, in his first bilateral visit since he assumed office in 2019.

Jaishankar will meet his counterpart Ahmed Nasser Mohammed Al-Sabah, to take forward discussions held in March on boosting ties during a visit by the Kuwaiti foreign minister to India.

The two countries had then announced the establishment of a joint ministerial commission at the level of foreign ministers to impart new momentum to ties. The two countries had also said they were looking at setting up new mechanisms to boost trade and investments as well as cooperation in defence and security. Jaishankar had invited more investments from Kuwait in areas ranging from energy, infrastructure, food security, healthcare and education.

In recent weeks, Kuwait has been helping India with the supply of liquid medical oxygen to treat emergency cases of covid-19 patients as New Delhi battles a second wave of infections.

“A warm call today with FM @anmas71 of Kuwait. Conveyed our appreciation for the maritime bridge with Kuwait that is enabling smooth oxygen flow," Jaishankar had said in a Twitter post on 12 May.

India has been grappling with a rising tide of covid-19 cases which has seen the number of cases inch towards the 28 million mark with over 350,000 deaths for far. Many of the deaths in the second wave were caused by the shortage of liquid medical oxygen and containers to transport the oxygen to hospitals across India. The situation has eased somewhat in recent days.

“Kuwait has been instrumental in supplying us with liquid medical oxygen and cryogenic containers to transport the oxygen," one of the three people cited above said.

“Taking forward historical ties of friendship. Kuwaiti ship arrives at Nhava Sheva Mumbai (India). 3 semi-trailers of LMO (25 MT each) and 1000 O2 cylinders onboard. Grateful to H.H. Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah the Amir of the State of Kuwait & government of Kuwait," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said in a Twitter post on 15 May.

The “oxygen bridge" that consisted of the Indian Air Force ferrying empty tankers back to Kuwait that were filled up and sent back by sea helped in a big way to ease the requirement in the country, the first person said. “Being an oil producing country, Kuwait has been producing liquid oxygen which they offered to share with us," the person cited above said.

According to a second person familiar with the matter, “Kuwait has been a reliable energy partner" over the years. Kuwait is among the top 10 exporters of oil to India in a list that includes Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the US.

Besides this, the Gulf country also hosts 900,000 Indians one of the largest expatriate populations in the region, the person said adding that remittances from Indians in Kuwait totalled almost $5 billion before the covid-19 pandemic struck the world.

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