Revival of Kuwait-Mumbai Cargo Route. Once by Sea, Today by Air.

A gateway to the Arabian Peninsula, since the 1750s, Kuwait gradually flourished as a center of trade and commerce under the rule of the Al-Sabah family, becoming a key component of the trade in frankincense from Oman, textiles from China, and spices from India, all of which headed to the lucrative European markets. Throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries, Kuwait maintained its prominence as a major commercial port, thanks to its natural harbor, maritime tradition, and strategic location at the northern end of the Arabian Gulf, which helped build alliances and beneficial commercial ties with countries in the region, most notably India.



During the 19th and early 20th centuries, some of the famed merchant families from Kuwait even relocated to India, particularly to Mumbai, creating small Kuwaiti communities in the city and other regions and choosing to spend the rest of their lives there to take care of their businesses and interests. Kuwait traders based in Mumbai facilitated the agreements between the two countries, which resulted in the shaping and strengthening of ties in general. Thus, the height of the pearling industry and commercial exchange was marked by the growth of connections and family-based trading networks between Kuwait and Mumbai in the western region of the Indian Ocean.

The records of the early 19th and 20th centuries show a progressively rising economic dependency on India as its economy grew to dominate the Indian Ocean by the early 1900s. The Gulf maritime merchants viewed the Indian Ocean ports as closer in terms of travel time and more significant commercially than any Arab city outside of Basra. Until the 1950s and the advent of the oil age, they knew Basra and Bombay rather than Beirut, Calicut and Cochin rather than Cairo, Mombasa and Mangalore rather than Mosul, and Zanzibar rather than Suez. Before the introduction of modern air transport in the mid-twentieth century, the ports of Eastern Arabia belonged as much, if not more, to the Indian Ocean world than to the Arab world. Eastern Arabia’s commercial connections with India started fading only after the discovery of oil and the subsequent economic reorientation towards the Arab world and the West in the 1950s and 1960s.

Nevertheless, in the 1950s and 1960s, Mumbai remained a center for many Kuwait enterprises and personal interests. Before they withered, sea transportation and commercial ties of these major trade and logistics hubs were sustained by extensive historical and commercial heritage. Today, geographic proximity, a shared history of cooperation in trade, investments, and human resources, and strong business connections have a limitless potential to bring the two shores closer again. Remembering and honoring Kuwait’s maritime past, the CEO of Kuwait International Air Cargo, Mr. Raed Rajab believes that the time has come to “rediscover” this unfulfilled potential by opening a weekly air cargo corridor to join Kuwait and Mumbai for air cargo transportation, which will be instrumental for the reinvigoration of business activity and commerce, generating more opportunities, growth, and economic success while restoring Kuwait to its position of a regional hub, this time for air transportation.

Starting July 14, 2021, Kuwait is “reconnecting” with Mumbai for weekly air cargo transportation – a much more convenient and speedy way to revive the past with new energy. By offering weekly direct cargo flights from Kuwait to Mumbai, KIAC CEO Mr. Raed Rajab aims to give a fresh impetus to the long-standing and thriving connection that has endured the test of time, fostering better business-to-business interactions that will facilitate economic cooperation, trade, and international initiatives. He sincerely hopes that this small but sure step will help boost the existing strategic relations and ensure a dynamic regional environment for economic prosperity.

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