For much of the 18th and 19th century, Kuwait, with its natural harbour, its pearl diving and seafaring heritage, and its strategic location at the northern end of the Arabian Gulf was an important trading port. Kuwait in its own unique manner developed strategic partnerships and engaged in mutually beneficial business practices with countries far and wide, principal among them being India.
Even before the period when Kuwait and India were conjoined as constituents of the British empire, a highly lucrative trade flourished between the two countries. Merchants from Kuwait, sailing their dhows propelled by the gusting monsoon winds arrived at ports along the western coast of India.
They brought with them dates, pearls and other sea products in exchange for spices, textiles and every other necessary commodity in Kuwait. Many of them sailed back on new ships built by Indian craftsmen using local wood, sail-cloth, anchor ropes and navigational tools made by Indian artisans. Having to spend a considerable time in India engaged in trade, or as their new ships were being built, or until prevailing monsoon winds became favourable, many Kuwaiti merchants set up families and businesses in India and made the country their second home.
This shared history of strong business ties and familial lineage, then a major component of Kuwait-India relations, was further cemented during the colonial era. In the see-saw battle by European powers, contending for domination, control and pre-emption around the world, British India extended its reach to the Gulf region through the protection treaty signed between Great Britain and Kuwait in 1899.
For the next many decades, political and economic interests of strategic importance to the British Empire overshadowed and dominated all other relations between Kuwait and India.