Bilateral Relations

Bilateral Relations

India and Yemen have a long history of people-to-people contacts dating back to historical times. Yemeni traders served as intermediaries for Indian trade with the Roman Empire.  The people of Arabia were fascinated by India’s spices, pearls, precious stones, silk, sandalwood, Oudh and perfumes and looked forward to the arrival of Indian ships. The Arabian products that were in demand in India were perfumes, incense, carnelian, coffee and Arabian Horses.

Subsequently, the contacts were intensified with the Hajj route from India running through Yemen. During 1967-68 nearly 15,000 Indian pilgrims used to proceed to Makkah by sea route passing through Aden and Mocha.  The Kamaran Islands also used to serve as a transit point of quarantine for pilgrims during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The Shiite Ismaili sect, which originated and flourished in Yemen before transferring its headquarters to India in 1567, served as another important religious linkage between the two regions. Members of the Islmaili Sect continue to visit their sacred sites in the Haraz Mountain and Jibla in south-western Yemen.

Aden-India Contacts

In 1839, Aden became part of the British Empire and was administered by the Bombay Presidency. A garrison of 2000 Indian soldiers was established in Aden and the Indian Rupee was made the official currency.  In 1855, a fortnightly steamer service with Bombay was initiated by Peninsular and Orient Line.  There was a regular movement of people between the two sides, both for business as well as work.  Mr M. Vishweshwaraya, one of the greatest engineers of India, was sent by the British to Aden in 1906 to lay out an effective underground drainage system and to prepare a scheme for providing drinking water.

The position of Aden as a gateway to the Red Sea facilitated the visit of several prominent Indian leaders associated with the Freedom Movement to Aden.  NetajiSubhash Chandra Bose, a great Indian revolutionary who led a politico-military campaign against the British during the World War II, made two historic visits to Aden, first in 1919 and later in 1935.   Mahatma Gandhi visited Aden on September 2, 1931, on his way to London to participate in the Second Round Table Conference, accompanied by PanditMadan Mohan Malaviya, Sarojini Naidu and others, during which he was given a warm reception by the people of Aden.

The Aden administration was separated from India in April 1937 with the appointment of a Governor directly reporting to London.  An Indian diplomatic mission at the level of Commissioner was set up in Aden in June 1950.  A large number of Indian nationals, including Hindus, Muslims and Parsis, had lived in Aden since mid-1880s.  Many of the Indian traders later obtained the Yemeni nationality and settled down in Aden, engaging in trade and commerce.  The number of Indians in Aden was estimated at 8,563 in 1856, which gradually increased to 15,817 in 1955. DhirubhaiAmbani, the founder of the now famous Reliance Group, also started his career in a humble way in Aden.  His son MukeshAmbani was also born in Aden on April 19, 1957.  The Bank of India opened its branch in Aden in 1954 and remained as the only Indian bank in the country until its incorporation by the National Bank of Southern Yemen in 1970, which is now the National Bank of Yemen.

These historic linkages between India and Aden are now reflected by the presence of a vibrant Indian-origin Diaspora in Yemen, mainly settled in Aden, Hadramout, Sana’a, Hodeida, Taiz and other places.

Hadramout’s India Links

One of the earliest recorded contacts between Hadramout and India was in 1560 A.D. when Haji Begum, wife of Mughal emperor Humayun went to perform Hajj and while on her way back invited nearly 300 HadramiSayyids and sheikhs to accompany her to Delhi. The ‘Arab Ki Sarai’ (Arab Lodge), located near the Humayun’s Tomb, is a testimony to this historic interaction.

Hadramout has a long history as an important centre of Islamic learning. There was a steady interaction between Hadramout and other places in Yemen and the Deccan during the reign of the Bahmani and the Golconda rulers. Several prominent members of the Sayyid families of Hadramout immigrated to India and established hospices and institutions of Arabic learning in India.  Several renowned scholars from Arabia found great patronage and encouragement in India. A large number of Arab soldiers were employed by the Nizam of Hyderabad and they were renowned for their bravery and loyalty.  During 1819 and 1857, several Arab chiefs employed in Hyderabad managed to build huge fortunes and established their own principalities in their regions in Yemen.  For instance, Saleh Al-Aqrabi settled down in Lahej as a distinguished chief and his clan came to be known as ‘Aal Al-Shawoosh’. Two sultanates were founded in Hadramout by the Arabs employed with the Nizam of Hyderabad. The First was the Kaseri Sultanate founded by Ghalib Bin Mohsin at Seyoun, which lasted till 1967.   The second and the largest sultanate in Hadramout was the Al-Quaiti Sultanate, founded in 1902 by the Yafai family of Omar Bin Awadh Al-Quaiti, who was given the title of ‘Shamseer-ud-Dowlah’ (‘Scimiter of the State’) and ‘Janbaz Jung’ (‘Intrepid Warrior’). The Sultanate survived till 1967 and its last ruler Sultan Ghalib II bin Awadh bin Saleh Al Qu’aiti, who is a renowned scholar, now resides in Jeddah.

Hadramout had a great impact on the culture, music and cuisine of Hyderabad. Likewise, the impact of Hyderabad on the southern Arabia was significant. A number of land reforms that were introduced in Hyderabad were applied in Hadramout with suitable modifications.  The Hyderabadi cuisine, particularly its Biryani, is popular in many parts of southern Yemen as ‘Zurbian’.

These intense people-to-people contacts have resulted in the settlement of over 300,000 people of Yemeni origin, mainly from Hadramout, in the Deccan, particularly in Hyderabad and adjoining areas of Andhra Pradesh; Aurangabad, Parbhani and Jalna in Maharashtra; Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat and Gulbarga and Bidar in Karnataka. Several members of the “Hadrami” community in India have attained great name and fame in different walks of life.

Political Relations in the Modern Times

After India became independent in August 1947, it actively supported the Yemeni struggle for independence from the British Empire.  India was one of the first countries to recognise both the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) after the 26th September, 1962 revolution and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) after its formation on 29th November 1967.  The Indian mission in Sana’a was established in 1970 and the relationship got strengthened after the consolidation of power by President Ali Abdullah Saleh during 1980s.

India took a neutral stand during the outbreak of the Civil Wars in Yemen. Indian doctors and nurses were perhaps the only expatriates who stayed behind and rendered humanitarian services to the people of Yemen.  In July 1994, following the successful conclusion of the Civil War, the Government of Yemen sought the help of the Government of India in admitting over 150 war-wounded persons for medical treatment in the hospitals in Bombay, which was readily agreed to by the Indian side.

The visit to India by President Ali Abdullah Saleh in March 1983 to participate in the Sixth Non-Aligned Summit and the official visit of President Zail Singh to Yemen in October 1984 energised the bilateral relationship.  The transit visit of President Saleh to India on 13th March 1999, while on his way to Japan, during which he had wide ranging talks with Prime Minister AtalBehari Vajpayee on regional, bilateral and international issues, and the transit visit of Vice President ShriKrishan Kant to Yemen in October 1999 continued the momentum of high-level exchanges between the leadership of the two sides.  The visit of the Yemeni Parliamentary delegation led by Speaker H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Husain Al-Ahmar to India in April 2001 provided an opportunity for useful interactions between the parliamentarians of the two countries.

There has since been a steady exchange of bilateral ministerial visits between the two sides. The important visits on the Indian side include the visits of Minister of State for External Relations, ShriE.Ahamed (February 2005), Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas, ShriMurliDeora (February 2007); Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, ShriVayalar Ravi (October 2007); Minister of State for External Affairs, Dr. ShashiTharoor (June 2009) and Minister of State for HRD, Mrs. D. Purandeswari (August 2010) among others.

Some recent visits on the Yemeni side include the visit of Dr. Abu Bakr Al Qirbi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to participate in the 12th Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) held in Gurgaon from October 29 to November 2, 2012; the visit of Dr. SalehSumae, Minister of Electricity and Energy to participate in an International Seminar on Energy Access organised by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy from from October 8-12, 2012 and visit of  MrAbdoRazzazSaleh Khaled, Minister of Water & Environment to participate in the Eleventh Conference of Parties (COP-11) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Sixth Meeting of Parties (MoP-6) held in Hyderabad from 17-19th October 2012.  Earlier, Dr. Ali MuthanaHasan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs participated  in the Foreign Office Consultations between India and Yemen held in New Delhi from June 12-14, 2012 . Nobel Laureate Tawakkol Karman visited India from March 31-April 2012 at the invitation of ICCR under their Distinguished Visitors’ ProgrammeMr. SalehHasanSumiya, Minister of Electricity and Energy4 – 7 May 2013 BHEL Power Plants in Hyderabad and Delhi.

The foreign policies of India and Yemen have much in common. Both are committed to non-alignment, international peace, combating international terrorism, support for Arab issues and creation of a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean.   Both India and Yemen are important members of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), with Yemen being the Chair and India, the Vice Chair.  The chairmanship of IOR-ARC was passed on to India in November 2011.

Yemen has been an ardent supporter of India in the international fora, particularly the United Nations. It has supported India’s candidature for the Non-Permanent Seat in the UN Security Council for the period 2011-2012.  Yemen has also voiced support in favour of India in its quest for a Permanent Seat in the expanded UNSC in future.  On its part, India affirmed its strong support to the democracy, unity, stability and territorial integrity of Yemen and supported its attempt for accession to the World Trade Organisation.

Bilateral Agreements

Both the countries have instituted official bilateral mechanisms like the Joint Committee for Economic & Technical Cooperation (1993), Foreign Office Consultations (1993), Bilateral Air Services Agreement (1995, 1999), MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sector (1996), Cultural Agreement (1999), Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (2002), Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine (2002), Protocol of Bilateral Cooperation in the field of Oil and Gas Industry (2007), Educational Exchange Programme (2012) and MoU on Cooperation between the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of India and the Diplomatic Institute of Yemen (2012). The new Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine and the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for the period 2013-2015 are expected to be signed in New Delhi on March 12th on the sidelines of the 8th Joint Committee Meeting.   The Yemeni side has proposed an agreement in the field of Technical Education and Vocational Traning, which is under consideration of the Indian side.

India participated in the 26th Annual Meeting of the Arab Gulf Archives and Documents Centres held in Sana’a in September 2010, during which the two sides agreed to conclude a MoU in order to utilize the rich wealth of documents available in the National Archives of the two countries. The MoU is expected to be concluded shortly.

Two leading think-tanks, the Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) and the Sheba Centre for Strategic Studies have entered into a MoU in April 2012 to forge a partnership for encouraging exchange of experts and analysts and participation in seminars and symposia on subjects of mutual interest.

The two countries held a round of Foreign Office Consultations in June 2012 in New Delhi. The 7th India-Yemen Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) held in Sana’a in March 2010 outlined an elaborate programme for further strengthening and deepening the bilateral relationship in different fields.  The 8th India-Yemen Joint Commission meeting took place in New Delhi  in March 11-12, 2013 and the 14 member Yemeni side was headed Mr. Omar AbdulazizAbdulghani, Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. The Joint Committee Meeting discussed and came out with agreed minutes relating to Education & Training, Culture, Health, Hydrocarbons, Agriculture, Fertilizers, Trade, Investment and Security.

A health cooperation agreement was signed on 9 June 2013 in Sanaa by Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Mr. Ahmed al-Ansi and Ambassador Dr. Ausaf Sayeed.

Cooperation in the Education Sector

Cooperation in the field of education is an important dimension of India’s bilateral relationship with Yemen. For the year 2013-2014, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has offered 54 scholarships to Yemeni students (23 under the Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP), 29 under the General Cultural Scholarship Scheme (GCSS) and 02 under the framework of IOR-ARC) for pursuing undergraduate, postgraduate and Ph.D. degrees in more than hundred prestigious Indian universities.  Several Yemeni students also go to India to pursue higher studies on self-financing basis.  India is the second most favoured destination of the students of the Aden University for pursuing higher studies and research. A few Indian students are also pursuing Arabic language studies in universities in Mukalla and Sana’a.  For the year 2013-14, India has also offered 100 slots to Yemen for training and capacity building in different fields under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

Humanitarian Assistance
In August 2012, the Government of India extended food assistance in the form of over 2400 metric tonnes of rice valued at around US$ 2 million to the people of Yemen through the World Food Programme (WFP). Another tranche of food assistance valued at around US$ 2 million in the form of wheat is under consideration.

Cultural Relations

India and Yemen signed a bilateral Cultural Agreement on 20th July 1999.  A Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for the period 2013-2015 is expected to be signed shortly.  The Indian side proposes to organise an Indian Cultural Week and an Indian Film Festival in Yemen in the months ahead.

Cultural troupes sponsored by ICCR have been regularly performing in different cities in Yemen. To mark the 150th Birth Anniversary of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, two special exhibitions were organised in Sana’a in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture. The first exhibition, ‘Tagore in Kantha’ was organised in November 2011 while the second exhibition, ‘Tagore in Advertisement’ was organised in January 2012.

As part of cultural diplomacy, the Indian side would be keen to promote Friendship Societies, encourage greater people-to-people interactions in the form of visits by Civil Society delegations, academicians and journalists and establish ‘Chairs’ in prestigious universities in both the countries.

Cooperation in the Hydrocarbons Sector

India is interested in both upstream and downstream segments of Yemen’s hydrocarbons sector, besides purchase of crude oil and natural gas on term contract basis. The first term contract for purchase of crude between the Governments of India and Yemen was concluded in August 1993, when the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) signed a contract for the purchase of 15,000 bpd of crude oil for one year valued at US$ 80 million.  The IOC and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) are importing 6 million bpd of Masila crude oil since July 2001.  The Masila crude oil is also being imported by the Reliance Refinery as well as the Mangalore Refinery.

The two sides have exchanged visits by the Ministers of Oil and other senior delegates from the public oil companies and signed a MoU aimed at exploring newer areas of cooperation in the hydrocarbons sector. Yemen’s Ministers of Oil & Minerals have regularly participated in the annual PETROTECH Conferences held in India, the last being the visit of  Mr. Ameer Salem Al-Aidroos, Minister of Oil and Minerals, in November, 2010 to attend  the PETROTECH 2010.

In December 2006, seven oil blocks were awarded to the Indian companies by the Yemeni Ministry of Oil and Minerals.  Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has got 2 oil blocks (Block Nos. 34 & 37); Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) in partnership with Jubiliant Enpro & Alkor Petro have got 3 blocks (Block Nos.19, 28 & 57) whereas IOC-OIL in partnership with Medco Energy & Kuwait Energy Co. have got 2 oil blocks (Block Nos. 82 & 83).  Exploration work is going on in all these oil blocks.

The Indian companies are interested in participating in the modernisation of the Aden Refinery, construction of a hydro-cracking project in Yemen and equity participation in LNG plants.  The Indian side offered to impart training to Yemeni personnel in upstream/downstream hydrocarbons sectors and consultancy services, including specialised bioremediation services.

The Yemeni Liquefied Natural Gas Company (YLNG) concluded a MOU with British Gas to export 5.2 metric tonnes of LNG to Maharashtra, Orissa and Gujarat. Separately, the Government of Orissa entered into a MOU with Al-Manhal International Corporation Group (AMIG) of Abu Dhabi to set up projects at Gopalpur, based on LNG imported from Yemen. Preliminary discussions have also taken place between the Indian consortium, Petronet LNG Limited, the Yemeni Government and the Government of Orissa.

The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has expressed interest in the development of CNG and City Gas Distribution project for Sana’a city and executing pipeline projects for the upcoming natural gas pipelines project in Yemen.  They have also offered imparting training to the Yemeni personnel in Gas Process, Petrochemicals and Pipeline Operation & Maintenance in India.

Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited are currently engaged in negotiations with the Yemen authorities for setting up of a gas-based fertilizer plant and a power station in Balhaf with a possible investment of US$ 1.3 billion.

India and Yemen have agreed to constitute a Joint Working Group (JWG) to pursue matters pertaining to oil and gas.


India’s Year-wise import of Crude Oil from Yemen

(in million tonnes)

2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
4.037 2.322 0.955 2.92 2.773 1.016 0.728

India’s year-wise import of Liquefied Natural Gas from Yemen

                                                                                                 (in tonnes)

2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
137.512 179.526 396.465

Cooperation in the Power Sector

The need for additional power to the tune of 10,000 MW and rapid expansion of the transmission lines in Yemen provides an excellent opportunity for the Indian companies to participate in tenders floated by the Public Electricity Corporation (PEC).

BHEL has been shortlisted for the 400 MW Marib Gas Turbine Power Station (Phase-II) costing US$ 434 million. Angelique International Limited, got contract for the US$ 38 million transmission and transfer of power on Safer-Marib Project.  It has also been awarded with a contract for a transmission line in the Sana’a-Dhamar segment.  Several public and private Indian companies like NTPC, RPG Group, KEC Limited, Jaguar Overseas Limited, Gammon International, Vasavi Power Services Limited and Kalpataru Power Transmission Limited are interested in participating in the power sector projects in Yemen.

Economic and Commercial Relations

As per Yemeni Central Statistics Organization, India is the fourth biggest trading partner of Yemen constituting 7.6% of the total trade (2012). India is  also the third largest destination for Yemen’s exports accounting for 11.65% of its total exports (2012). Likewise, India is the sixth biggest source for Yemeni imports accounting for around 5.12% of Yemen’s imports.

The Total Trade between India and Yemen during FY 2012-2013 was put at US$2.35  billion, which included India’s exports valued at US$ 1477.01 million and India’s imports from Yemen totalling US$ 880.76 million, as per the statistics provided by the Ministry of Commerce, GOI.

As per the General Investment Authority (GIA) of Yemen, 19 Indian investment projects were established in Yemen during the period 2000-2012 at a total cost of US$ 154.9 million.

The principal items of India’s exports to Yemen include tea, rice, wheat, cereals, spices, tobacco, meat and meat preparations, pharmaceuticals, hand tools, chemicals, etc., while its major items of imports from Yemen include crude oil, mineral fuels and oils, metal scrap, hides and skins and limestone.

Yemen was notified as a beneficiary under India’s Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) effective. 2nd April 2013. The DFTP Scheme grants duty free access on 94% of India’s total tariff lines. Specifically it will provide preferential market access on tariff lines that comprise 92.5% of global exports of all LDCs. This notification is expected to give a boost to Yemeni exports to India, as well as help encourage the manufacturing sector in Yemen.

India-Yemen Bilateral Trade

Financial Year(April-March) India’ Exports to Yemen ($ m) India’s Imports from Yemen ($m) Total Trade($ m)
2006-2007 1184.26 2,009.28 3,188.50
2007-2008 1,010.82 1,468.97 2,468.60
2008-2009 787.29 754.61 1,541.90
2009-2010 727.39 1,575.55 2,302.90
2010-2011 514.37 1,743.90 2258.27
2011-2012 730.62 973.65 1704.27
2012-2013 1,477.01 880.76 2357.77

Source: Department of Commerce, Government of India
(Financial Year: March-April)

Active encouragement is being given for forging institutional cooperation between the chambers of commerce of both countries. During the visit of the CII business delegation to Yemen in May, 2010, a MoU was signed with the Federation of Yemen Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FYCCI). Efforts are on to re-activate the Joint Business Council (JBC) existing between the two countries. An India-Yemen Business Council (IYBC) was formed under the aegis of FYCCI in November 2012. IYBC has expressed its keenness to enter into a formal cooperation agreement with FICCI.

There is considerable potential for enhancing bilateral trade in the fields of power, fertilizers, oil & gas, mining, civil engineering, infrastructure development, telecommunications, fisheries, water harvesting, small and medium enterprises, micro-financing and general trading. The Aden Free Zone offers several incentives which could be availed of by Indian investors interested in making a foray into Yemen.

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