India and Yemen: A long history of exchange

National Yemen

Yaseen Al-Tamimi

By: Yaseen al-Tamimi

There is a poetic Yemeni phrase – “Oh… sailboat of India, I wished to have been the boat’s captain”- which indicates the nature of the relationship which has linked Yemen with India since ancient times. The two countries share majestic views of the Indian Ocean as well as common points of history and civilization.

Large Indian double-sail boats used to dominate traffic across the Indian Ocean, transferring goods, people, civilization, customs and traditions to and from the ocean’s two banks. Therefore, it isn’t surprising to see similar life features in terms of customs, traditions, and lifestyles and even faces, whenever you visit any coastal city either in Yemen or India.

The Economic Affairs Secretary for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Shri Sudhir Vyas, during one of his meetings on the sidelines of the meeting of senior officials of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-RAC), referred to trade relations and the hundreds of documents in the Indian archives which reveal the strong relations between sailors from both countries, and the nature of trade exchanges in the early stages of the countries’ shared history.

Until today, bilateral trade relations continue to constitute a key aspect through which the full picture of relations between the two countries – economic, cultural and human – take shape.

Latest data revealed by the Indian Embassy in Sana’a put the volume of economic exchange between Yemen and India at a little more than two billion US dollars over the past two years, a significant figure considering the volume of Yemen’s economy.

Oil exported by Yemen to India accounts for most of the total value of bilateral trade, and it appears the two countries have further potential to boost these relations, especially since India has many high-quality products which Yemeni consumers trust.

Meanwhile, great attention is being paid by the Indian Ambassador to the Yemen Ausaf Sayeed to the development of relations between the two countries. Sayeed has stated that his country now offers great facilities to Yemeni businessmen to travel between the two countries, and provides them with long-stay visas for one to five years. On a larger level, key steps have been taken to build and develop long-term cooperation and a lasting partnership between the two countries. It is understood by representatives of both nations that being members of the same association provides great opportunities to strengthen such a partnership.

Yemen and India are lucky today to have very active ambassadors – Khadija Radman, Yemen’s Ambassador to India, and Ausaf Sayeed, India’s ambassador to Yemen.

Important steps have been managed to build long-term cooperation and partnerships between both countries. Being members of the same Association only gives them extra opportunities to strengthen their partnership.

While covering the 12th meeting of foreign ministers of Indian Ocean Rim Countries Association held on the second of November in the Indian city of Gorgaon, I noted the seriousness demonstrated by India to push the Association forward and explore potential opportunities for partnerships and economic, political and security cooperation between member states on the basis of a common belief in the vital importance of the Indian Ocean maritime route for international trade.