Why the Gulf matters for India


  • Recently, spokespersons of a national party has been expelled, following comments they had made about Islam and the Prophet.

Why is the region important for India?

  • India has enjoyed centuries of good relations with countries like Iran, while smaller gas-rich nation Qatar is one of India’s closest allies in the region. India shares good relations with most of the countries in the Gulf.
  • The two most important reasons for the relationship are oil and gas, and trade.

    Photo Credit: Britannica.com
  • Two additional reasons are the huge number of Indians who work in the Gulf countries, and the remittance they send back home.

How much trade does India do with countries in this region?

  • According to India’s embassy in Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, “has emerged as a major trading partner of India” and has “vast potential as India’s investment partner for the future.
  • The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are of utmost importance for India’s energy needs”.
    • UAE was India’s third largest trading partner in 2021-2022, and second largest for both exports and imports.
    • Saudi Arabia was India’s fourth largest trading partner. Imports from Saudi Arabia were the fourth largest, most of it was crude oil. 
    • Iraq was India’s fifth largest trading partner in 2021-22. 
    • Qatar is India’s most important supplier of natural gas. Qatar accounts for 41% of India’s total natural gas imports. The UAE accounts for another 11%.

How much oil does India import?

  • More than 84% of India’s petroleum demand, which included crude oil and petroleum products, was met with imports.
  • The share of Persian Gulf countries in India’s crude imports has remained at around 60% over the last 15 years.
  • In 2021-2022, the largest exporter of oil to India was Iraq.
  • Saudi Arabia has accounted for 17-18% of India’s oil imports for over a decade.
  • Kuwait and UAE remain major oil exporters to India.
  • Iran used to be the second largest oil exporter to India in 2009-2010, its share went down to less than 1% in 2020-21, due to US sanctions.

How many Indians work in the Gulf, and how much remittance do they send?

  • According to Ministry of External Affairs data, more than 13.46 million Indian citizens work abroad. If Persons of Indian Origin (those who have taken up citizenship of other countries, and their descendants) are added, this number goes up to over 32 million.
  • Counting only the 13.4 million non-resident Indians (NRIs), the Gulf has the largest numbers. The UAE (3.42 million), Saudi Arabia (2.6 million) and Kuwait (1.03 million) together account for over half of all NRIs.
  • In terms of remittances from abroad, India was the largest recipient in 2020, according to World Bank data. This was nearly twice the remittances to the next highest recipient, Mexico.
  • The largest contributor is the huge Indian diaspora in the Gulf.

PM’s outreach to these countries

  • Today, India has the best-ever relations with the Gulf countries in its history.
  • Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Jordan have excellent relations with India and Maldives and Bahrain have bestowed their highest civilian honour to our Prime Minister.
  • In 2018, esteemed Prime Minister went to Jordan, Palestine and Oman besides UAE, and became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Palestinian territory of Ramallah. He visited Bahrain in 2019.
  • There have been similar reciprocal visits by leaders from these countries during these eight years. Even during the pandemic, Indian and Gulf region leaders maintained regular contact.
  • PM has also visited some of the most popular mosques in those countries, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi in 2015, and the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat in 2018.



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