Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs V. Muraleedharan will pay a two-day visit to Kuwait from 14 September. The visit is expected to focus on enhancing the existing strong and cordial relations between India and Kuwait, as well as allow the minister on his first visit to Kuwait to interact with the large Indian community in the country.
Long before Kuwait’s oil wealth and investment clout came into the trade equation, India and Kuwait had a long history of maritime trade, cultural affinities and personal relations that stretch back over a century. In recent decades, the pivots around which bilateral relations between the two countries have concentrated are economic trade, energy security and expatriate remittances.
Bilateral trade between the two countries of over US$17.6 billion continues to remain lopsided in favor of Kuwait. Oil exports to India from Kuwait account for over 88 percent of the bilateral trade volume. While India’s trade with Kuwait has been largely limited to consumer goods and construction projects, the country’s biggest investors in Kuwait has been its people. Expatriate Indians form the largest foreign community in Kuwait and their services and contribution to the economic development of Kuwait has been applauded and appreciated by Kuwait’s leadership and people alike.
Speaking at a reception held at the Indian Embassy to mark India’s Republic Day in January of this year, Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah lauded these ties while stressing the strong historic bonds linking Kuwait and India. “Kuwaiti-Indian relations are deeply-rooted and date back many decades with trips by Kuwaiti merchants to India to sell their commodities being a major source of income to Kuwaiti people,” said Al-Jarallah.
He also pointed out that Indians made up the largest expatriate community in Kuwait. “They are working with Kuwaitis to develop and upgrade Kuwait. We have great relations in all realms,” said Al-Jarallah. He added that officials of both countries were working to better regulate contracting with Indian workers and to overcome any impediments in this regard.
On the foreign policy front, the two countries have pursued policies founded on the four key parameters of being non-descriptive, non-intrusive, non-judgemental and not taking sides in intra-regional disputes.
In recent years, Kuwait has been keen to invest in India’s growth story. Kuwaiti investments, which were earlier confined to those made by portfolio managers, is set to change with Kuwaiti establishments eager to invest in India. AlGhanim Group, KAPICO Group, National Aviation Services, Agility Logistics and many others are reported to be planning operations in India. Kuwait’s sovereign wealth fund manager, Kuwait Investment Authority, is said to be preparing to double its current investment of around US$5 billion in the coming years.
During his visit to Kuwait and discussion with his counterparts, bilateral trade and cementing ties are likely to feature high on the agenda. To those not familiar with the visiting minister, he is a brief bio on his life and career.
Vellamvelly Muraleedharan is the current Minister of State for External Affairs, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, and Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament. He was officially sworn in as a Union Minister on 30 May 2019 and two weeks later was appointed as the Government Deputy Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha.
Muraleedharan was born to Vannathanveetil Gopalan and Nampally Vellamvelly Devaki on 12 December 1958 at Eranjoli, Thalassery in Kannur District. His family which was oriented towards the Congress Party lived in an area that was considered as a Communist Party stronghold. Growing amidst this political tension, it is understandable that the young Muraleedharan was attracted to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the youth wing of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jan Sangh, the fore-runner of today’s Bhartiya Janatha Party (BJP).
A graduate in English Literature from Government Brennan College, Thalassery, he married Dr. K.S. Jayasree, who is presently a Sanskrit lecturer at SN College, Thrissur in 1998. The couple have no children and currently live in Kozhikode.
Muraleedharan’s political activities began during the days of National Emergency that choked India from June 1975 to March 1977. In 1978 as the Taluk President, he led ABVP in Thalassery. He became the Kannur District Secretary in 1979 and the State Joint Secretary of ABVP in 1980. From 1983 to 1994 he was the State Organizing Secretary of the ABVP, while also holding the additional responsibility as All India Secretary of ABVP from 1987 to 1990. Muraleedharan left for Mumbai when he was appointed All India General Secretary of ABVP for the term 1994-1996.
Muraleedharan’s formal entry into the fore of the BJP took place during the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, when he was called upon to assist Venkaiah Naidu at the BJP Central Election Control Room in New Delhi. In 1999, after Vajpayee Government assumed office, Muraleedharan was appointed as the Vice Chairman of Nehru Yuva Kendra, under Department of Youth Affairs and Sports.
He also became the chief coordinator of the committee chaired by the Prime Minister for celebrating the golden jubilee of Indian Republic in the year of 2000. From 2002 to 2004 he was the Director General of Nehru Yuva Kendra and convener of Youth Employment Generation Task Force under Khadi and Village Industry commission. As the office bearer of Nehru Yuva Kendra, he received National attention for creating National Reconstruction Corps, which later came to be called Rashtriya Sadbhawana Yojana.
He had been the founder president and currently a director board member of National Yuva Cooperative Society created for encouraging entrepreneurship and savings among youth. V. Muraleedharan had participated in the World Youth Peace Summit Asia – Pacific conference representing India at Bangkok in 2004. He has presented about 25 papers on National educational policy, higher education system, creation of employment opportunity, Environmental issues and developmental problems at different National and International seminars.
In 2004 Muarleedharan was appointed as the National convener of NGO cell of BJP. Thereafter in 2005, he was made the All India convener of BJP training cell. During his tenure as the BJP Kerala Vice president (2006–2010), his major assignments were to provide ideological orientation to the party workers in Kerala as part of training cell activities and impart and oversee training to the local body members of the BJP.
In January 2010 he was elected as the State President of the Kerala BJP. He was elected for his second term in the office in January 2013. A good orator, strong and untiring leader with methodical organising skills, Muraleedharan has been instrumental in strengthening the party at its grass root level. The Kerala BJP which had a 6.4 percent of vote share in 2009 increased it to 10.8 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha Election. The 2014-2015 membership drive has expanded the party membership base from 5.75 lakhs to 20 lakhs.
In April 2018, he was elected to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.He is the 5th ever BJP MP from Kerala state. His elevation as a cabinet minister in Prime MInister Narendra Modi’s second government is a recognition of his effective working style, and an indication of the esteem with which his party holds him.