Mohammed Khalid*


Occupying the southwestern and southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a geopolitically important country. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north for 1,458 km, and Oman to the east for 288 km. Yemen has a coastline of about 1906 km in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Having a land area of 527,968 sq km, Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization on Arabian Peninsula. Its land is relatively fertile to sustain a stable population while its desert regions (Rub' al Khali and Sayhad) have been the core settlements of Nomadic Semites since long. The country is strategically located on Bab el Mandeb (literally the gate of tears) which acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. A favoured sea route between Asia and Europe, thousands of commercial and military vessels pass through Bab el Mandeb making it one of the busiest waterways in the world.1
Introduction Yemen’s sea to its west and south provides it over 200 islands in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, providing it a strategic extension in the Ocean. These islands are scattered at the entry of Red Sea in the Gulf of Aden and Bab el Mandeb. The largest of them is Socotra archipelago lying about 380 km south of the Yemen mainland. This *associate professor in Political Science, Department of Evening Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh


157 archipelago also includes smaller islands of Abd al Kuri, Samhah, Darsah and Hadibu. Archipelago of Socotra bears tremendous strategic importance for the sea traffic and is useful to monitor activities of Somali pirates which are a nightmare for trading ships using this sea rout. Perim Island (also called Mayoon Island) is located in the Bab el Mandeb at the southern entrance of the Red Sea, on a short distance from Djibouti. The island has a natural harbour on its southwestern coast.2 Due to its geostrategic significance, Portuguese tried to capture Perim in 1513, France occupied it in 1738. In 1799, the island was briefly occupied by the British East India Company in preparation for the invasion of Egypt. It was reoccupied by the British in 1857 and attached to their colony of Aden. From 1869 onwards, the island was used by the British as a coaling station for its ships using the Suez Canal. In 1916, Turkish forces attempted to seize the island but failed and the island remained under the British occupation till 1967. Perim Island is poised to play a crucial role if a proposed 28.5 km bridge is built linking Yemen and Djibouti.3 Similarly, Hanish and Jabal al-Tair Islands lie in the middle of Red Sea between Yemen and Eritrea. Kamaran Island which is the largest Yemen-controlled Island in the Red Sea is strategically located in the shallow waters on the continental shelf of the Arabian Peninsula. Saso and Zuqar are other important islands in the Red Sea under the Yemeni control. Rich in marine life and coral reefs, these islands provide unforgettable beauty and attract tourists from all over the world. They collectively make Yemen geo-strategically very important and have traditionally made Yemen to play an important role in the history of the Middle East. Many a times, great powers of the time who wished to control the Red Sea entry points tried to take over Yemen and its islands. Strategic location of Yemen was recognized long back first by the Portuguese who occupied Yemen in 1513–1538 and 1547–1548, Ottoman Empire ruled it between 1538–1547 and 1548–1645 and


158 held on its major portions till 1918. In 1838, Sultan Muhsin bin Fadl of the state of Lahej, one of the original "Nine Cantons" that signed protection agreements with Great Britain in the late 19th century, was forced to cede 194 sq km area including the port of Aden to the British. On 19 January 1839, the British East India Company landed Royal Marines at Aden to occupy the territory. Yemen gained independence in 1918 from the Ottoman Empire which held major patches of present day Yemen. Between 1918 and 1962, the country was a hereditary monarchy. In 1962, North Yemen (also called Yemen Saa’na) became a republic, but Britain kept hold of a protective area around the port of Aden, which it had created in 1839. Britain withdrew from Aden in 1967 and the area came to be known as South Yemen (also Called Yemen Aden). The two countries were formally united to make Republic of Yemen on May 22, 1990.4 For centuries, Yemen was on lucrative Arab trade route which was a major source of wealth for its people. Arab seafarers and traders who traversed the waters of Indian Ocean embarked from Yemeni ports. Trade importance of Yemen diminished after the Portuguese and other European powers began to control the seaborne trade from the 16th century onwards. After the Suez Canal was opened in November 1869, Red Sea trade route between Asia and Europe became vital. This again made Yemeni ports like Hodeida and Mokha in the Red Sea and the port of Aden on the Indian Ocean front as strategically important. To stop attacks by pirates of Red Sea against its shipping to India, the British decided to takeover Aden in January 1839 and put it under the administrative control of the Bombay Presidency. A garrison of 2000 Indian soldiers was established there the Indian Rupee was made the official currency of Aden protectorate after 1839. A fortnightly steamer service was also started from Bombay in 1855.5


159 History of Indo-Yemen relations Strong interaction between India and Yemen goes back to Indus Valley Civilisation. Presence of thousands of Yemenis and Indians in each other’s country testifies that interaction. Yemen was used for its mid way ports and Yemeni traders acted as intermediaries between the traders from India and the Roman Empire. Aden was one of the closest ports from Indian ports of Bombay, Karachi and Surat. With the advent in seventh century Islam spread to south India through Arab traders. The contacts further intensified when Muslims from the sub-continent began to use Aden and Mokha ports on their way to perform annual Hajj pilgrimage.6 Many of Yemeni traders and professionals frequently visited the princely state of Hyderabad and were employed by the Nizams for various civilian and military jobs. There had been a steady interaction between Yemen’s Hadramout region (comprising the south Arabian Peninsula along the Gulf of Aden in the Arabian Sea) and India’s Deccan during the reign of the Bahmani and the Golconda rulers. Many Sayyid families of Hadramout immigrated to India and established hospitals and institutions of Arabic learning in India. Several renowned scholars from Yemen found great patronage and encouragement in India. Some of the Yemeni military personnel, who had been earlier employed in Hyderabad, established their own principalities in Hadramout region after going back to Yemen. These include the Kaseri Sultanate founded by Ghalib Bin Mohsin at Seiyun (Hadramout) which lasted till 1967 and Al-Quaiti Sultanate, founded in 1902 by the Yafai family of Omar Bin Awadh Al-Quaiti. Thousands of Yemenis migrated to India and settled down in Andhra Pradesh; Aurangabad, Parbhani and Jalna in Maharashtra; Ahmedabad and Surat in Gujarat and Gulbarga and Bidar in Karnataka. Even today there are close to one lakh Yemenis living in India especially in Hyderabad. Even in Delhi, the ‘Arab Ki Sarai’ (Arab Lodge), located near the Humayun’s Tomb was


160 built for Yemeni nationals during the reign of Emperor Humanyun in the 16th century.7 Large number of Indians had lived in Aden since mid-1880s. One such prominent person was Cowasjee Shavaksha Dinshaw Adenwalla, who migrated from Surat to Aden in 1855. Indians in Aden numbered 8,563 in 1856 and gradually increased to 15,817 in 1955. Many Indian engineers were deputed to execute civic amenities projects (drainage and drinking water supply system) in Aden and other British held towns during the days when Aden administration was run from Bombay. Aden was a favourite destination for many Indian nationalist leaders and revolutionaries to stop-by on their way to or from Europe. During the freedom movement, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited Aden in 1919 and 1935. Mahatma Gandhi, accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, visited Aden on September 3, 1931, on his way to London to participate in the Second Round Table Conference. The Aden administration was separated from India in April 1937 with the appointment of a Governor directly responsible to London. Many of the Indian traders later became Yemeni nationals and settled down in Aden. The Indian community always stood for close relations between the two lands and even opposed the move by the British government to separate Aden from the Indian governance. After independence these relations continued to grow. Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Group started his career as a trader in Aden. 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. The Kamaran Islands was used for long as a transit point of quarantine for hajj pilgrims from India during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Shiite Ismaili sect originated in Yemen and later shifted its headquarters to Bombay in 1567.8 For Ismailis, Yemen remains an important place of pilgrimage till date. Indians in Yemen set up several temples which included a Jain temple, a Parsi Temple and several Hindu temples. In 1972, the then communist regime of
Southern Yemen took over all religious properties. Most of the temples now

remain locked and

are not in use. Currently there are about 9,000 persons of Indian origin mainly 160

161 settled in Aden, Hadramout, Sana’a, Hodeida, and Taiz. To carry on their culture and traditions, Indian community has established many associations such as Ber Sheba Prayer Fellowship at Sana’a; Hatimi Makan (Bohra Community) at Haddah; Indian Association Aden; Indian (Embassy) Club, Haddah; Indian National's Club, Taiz; Indian Association Hodeidah; Kerala Club at Sana'a; Malayali Samajam, Taiz; Telugu Bharathi Club and Tamil Sangam, at Sana'a; India Embassy Club, Sana'a; Yemen Malayalee Association (Kerala Club), Sana’a; Pravasi Indian Welfare Association, Sana’a; Pravasi Malayali Welfare Association, Aden; and Indian Association, Taiz.9 Due to the reasons such as the presence of strong Indian Diaspora, geographical proximity and a host of other factors, both the countries have maintained close relations in the recent decades. Since its independence, India had actively supported the Yemeni struggle for independence from the British. An Indian diplomatic mission at the level of Commissioner was set up in Aden in June 1950. India recognised the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) in 1962 and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) in 1967 on their formation. The Indian Embassy in Sa'naa was established in 1970. Bilateral relations also strengthened with the visits exchanged by the leaders of both the countries. For that purpose, President Ali Abdullah Saleh visited New Delhi in March 1983 to participate in the Sixth Non-Aligned Summit followed by the visit of Indian President Giani Zail Singh to Yemen in October 1984. President Saleh also visited India in March 1999. Indian Vice President Krishan Kant paid a visit to Yemen in October 1999. There has since been a steady exchange of bilateral ministerial visits between the two countries. These include the visits of Minister of State for External Affairs, E.Ahamed in February 2005; Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Murli Deora in February 2007; Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Vayalar Ravi in October 2007; Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor in June 2009 and Minister of State for HRD, D. Purandeswari in August 2010. Similarly, Yemeni Minister of Oil & Minerals paid four visits to India in June 1999, January 2001, and January 2007 and November 2010;


162 its Minister of Foreign Affairs came to New Delhi in April 1994; Deputy Minister of Industry in January 2007; Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation in December 2007 and Yemen’s Minister of Energy & Electricity visited Delhi in October 2010.10 In order to boost up their economic and commercial relations, a Joint Committee for Economic and Technical Co-operation was set up in April 1993. Joint Committee has become instrumental in signing agreements to increase co-operation in different sectors of economy especially the energy sector. For regular interaction on bilateral, regional and international issues, Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) mechanism was instituted in 1993. India and Yemen signed the Bilateral Air Services Agreements in 1995 and 1999 and Bilateral Investment Promotion Agreement (BIPA) in February 2004. They also signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sector in 1996; Cultural Agreement in 1999; Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine in 2002 and Protocol of Bilateral Cooperation in the field of Oil and Gas Industry 2007. Both the countries have signed MoUs for cooperation in the fields of science and technology, health and medicine and agriculture.11 India and Yemen share similar views on many international issues. They have common perception on non-alignment, international peace and combating international terrorism. To promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the Indian Ocean region and to focus on economic cooperation among the countries of this region, India and Yemen became the founder members of Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). Yemen is the Chair and India was the Vice Chair of this organisation in 2010-11. The chairmanship has been passed on to India in November 2011. Both the countries are partners in IOR-ARC’s


163 Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI), Indian Ocean Rim Business Forum (IORBF). India and Yemen also are the members of The Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Cooperation (IOMAC). Yemen has been an ardent supporter of India in the international forums, 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 also supports India in its quest for a permanent seat in the expanded UNSC in future. Similarly, India has strongly supported Yemen’s attempt for accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Trade Relations Trade relations between India and Yemen have steadily grown. India is second largest destination for Yemen’s exports and the eighth principal source for its imports. India imports crude oil, mineral fuels, metal scrap, hides and skins and limestone from Yemen and exports tea, rice, wheat, cereals, spices, tobacco, meat products, pharmaceuticals, hand tools, and chemicals. Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) have imported from Yemen about 6 million barrel of crude oil per day since July 2001. Crude oil is also being imported by the Reliance Refinery as well as the ONGC subsidiary the Mangalore Refinery. To boost trade, India has offered a Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme to Yemen, opening up as many as 90% of tariff lines for duty-free access to Yemeni exports. Bilateral trade between the two countries was US$277.23 million in 2004-05 and 15491.91 million in 200809. It has further reached US$ 2.3 billion during 2009-10. Exports to Yemen were calculated at US$787.29 million in 2008-09, US$ 727.29 million in 2009-10 and 514.37 million in 2010-11. Imports from Yemen were US$754.61 million in 2008-09, $1575.55 million in 2009-10, and $1743.90 million in 2010-11.12 To strengthen trade and economic relations with Yemen, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sent its first ever business delegation to Yemen in May 2010, with an


164 aim to create direct relations with Federation of Yemen Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FYCCI). Meetings between the two chambers of commerce explored the potential for enhancing cooperation 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 has offered several incentives which could be utilized by Indian investors. Indian investments in Yemen After India took to liberalization in 1991, many Indian companies have shown interest to invest in Yemen. India and Yemen signed an agreement in October 2002 for promotion and protection of Investments.13 Yemen has throughout sought an increase in Indian investments in the areas of industry, fishery, and tourism sectors. Indian investors have also desired to invest in small and middle industries in Yemen and develop industrial areas and free zone in Aden. Indian Minister of Oil and Natural Gas, Murli Deora, accompanied by a delegation from India’s Ministry of Oil and Natural Gas and representatives of India’s large oil companies, visited Yemen on Feb 2, 2007. Cementing their energy partnership, a protocol was signed to promote various investment opportunities including downstream activities such as refining, pipelines and oil storage facilities. Yemen has allowed Indian companies to carry out oil exploration on a wider scale. In 2006, Reliance Industries won the bid for two oil exploration blocks. A consortium of Oil India Ltd., Indian Oil Corporation and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) has secured bids for three oil exploration blocks. India has offered help to set up joint ventures to revamp some of Yemen's under-performing refineries. Reliance Industries is in the process to set up a joint venture refinery with Yemen's Hood Oil Company with a capacity of 50,000 barrels per-day. National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC) too, has shown interest in Yemen to secure hydrocarbon resources estimated at around 4,000 million barrels of oil and gas. The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has explored possibility to develop CNG and City Gas Distribution project for Sana’a city and execute pipeline projects for the upcoming natural gas pipelines project in Yemen. BHEL is poised to set up a 400 MW Marib Gas Turbine Power Station (Phase-II) costing US$ 400 million.14


165 Yemen has also invited Indian companies to set up plants in fertilizer production, Nagarjuna Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited have negotiated with the Yemen authorities to set up a gas-based fertilizer plant and a power station in the industrial town of Balhaf with a possible investment of US$ 1.5 billion. India’s Angelique International Limited, was given 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’aDhamar segment. Several public and private Indian companies like National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), KEC International Limited, Gammon International, Vasavi Power Services Limited and Kalpataru Power Transmission Limited have shown interest in participating in the power sector projects in Yemen. Progressive Construction Ltd. of India has undertaken 111 km long Saudi funded Amran-Alsuda-Alahnoom road project costing over US$ 19.4 million. An increase in such joint collaborations with Yemen can certainly pave the way for Indian corporate to enter east African markets. Cultural and educational relations A cultural agreement between India and Yemen was signed During the Third session of the Joint Committee Meeting on 20th July 1999. In response to that, the ICCR has sponsored Indian cultural troops to perform in different cities in Yemen from time to time. Both the countries regularly exchange academicians, journalists and civil society delegations. India offers forty scholarships under Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) and offers a large number of short term courses to Yemeni students in the field of IT, and solar energy. India is the second most favoured destination for the students of the Aden University to pursue higher education and research. About 700 Yemeni students are studying in University of Pune alone. Perhaps proximity to India, higher standards of learning and low cost compared to studying in Western countries may be the reasons for attracting Yemeni students to Indian Universities.15 There are a number of Indian Professors who teach in Yemeni Universities. A few Indian students also pursue Arabic language studies in the universities in Mukalla and Sana’a.17


166 Future prospects India and Yemen always had friendly relations emanating from their long standing historical and cultural contacts. India was among the first few countries to establish diplomatic relations with Sana'a in November 1967 when Yemen became independent. India is a seaworthy nation and its trade and commerce to Europe, Mediterranean countries, the countries of north and east Africa and many Arab countries passes through the Bab-elMandeb and Red Sea. Friendly and peaceful Yemeni coast is a prerequisite to the use of these sea lanes. Increasing Somalia based sea piracy is already costing dearly to the world shipping sector and has forced India to maintain its naval presence in the Gulf of Aden for the security of its trading ships. A friendly Yemen is also needed for logistic support to India’s patrolling naval ships. During the last one decade especially after the September 11 attacks on the United States, terrorist attacks in Yemen have increased. The country has been used as a refuge by terrorists using its mountainous west and north, large deserts in the centre and east. On October 12, 2000, United States Navy destroyer USS Cole was targeted in a suicide attack while it was harboured to refuel in the port of Aden. Attack killed 17 and injured 39 of the crewmen. In 2007, seven Spanish tourists were killed in a car bombing in the eastern Marib province. In January 2008, a group of four Belgian tourists was killed in Hadramaut province. In September, the same year, a radical group calling itself the ‘Islamic Jihad’ attacked the U.S. embassy in Yemen, killing 17 people, including civilians. In October 2010, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was fired at the car carrying the deputy head of the British mission, Fiona Gibb. In another attack, a French national working for Austrian oil company (OMV) was shot fatally. In 2010, four South Korean tourists were killed in a suicide blast when they were visiting an ancient town in southern Hadramaut province. Even the delegation who was deputed to investigate the case was attacked on its way to the airport in Saa’na. Involvement of Yemeni nationals in terrorist activities is demonstrated by the fact that a sizeable number of inmates of the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay are Yemenis. So much so, in January 2012 the Al Queda captured the town of


167 Radda, 160 km south of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, overrunning army positions, storming the local prison and freeing at least 150 inmates.15 In March 2012 al Qaeda militants killed 107 and captured 55 soldiers of Yemeni forces in Abyan province of the country. India along with other countries of the world is worried about Yemen as an emerging centre of terrorist activities. Such activities in Yemeni waters and its coast can spell doom to the cargo ships passing through the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandeb. Nearly one-third of the world’s containerized cargo, four percent of the world’s daily oil and a half of the world’s bulk cargo transits through these waters. An estimated 22,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden every year in order to transit through the Suez Canal. A considerable number of them belong to India. In spite of the fact that the Yemeni governments have strengthened its fight against terrorism, Yemen’s internal turmoil and instability does not allow it to pick up a determined fight against this menace. United States provides intelligence inputs to Yemeni forces in order to strike out terrorist modules in the country. Along with the navies of China, European countries and the US, India regularly sends its warships in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy duties. It has stationed a Talwar class frigate off the coast of Somalia. Indian
navy has successfully thwarted many hijack bids by Somali pirates in the western Indian Ocean. India is showing greater responsibility in the region which can be further strengthened with Yemen’s help and cooperation.

If India and the world dependent on Arab-Gulf oil want to keep their homelands secure, they will have no choice but to ensure that the extremists do not acquire base areas/sanctuaries in Yemen and elsewhere. Growing terrorist presence and fast spreading instability in Yemen has serious implications. It will potentially weaken the global ‘War on Terror’ and further boost piracy in the surrounding waters threatening the entire shipping industry in the world. India is a major stakeholder in Yemen and in the Gulf of Aden. As an important Indian Ocean littoral state, India must develop multifaceted relationship with 167

168 Yemen. India must use its good offices to facilitate peaceful transfer of power in Yemen. In any eventuality, India needs to continue nurturing good relations with Yemen. It is precisely due to this reason that India continued to stay put in Sana when numerous other embassies were closing down in the wake of internal violence there. India must also realize that impoverished Yemen is sitting on large deposits of petroleum and other mineral resources and India needs them the most as an emerging regional economic and military power in the Indian Ocean. References: Central Intelligence Agency. (2010, April 12). CIA - The World Factbook -Yemen. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-worldfactbook/geos/ym.html; Searight, Sarah: Yemen: Land and People, London, Pallas Athene, 2003. Schmitza, Charles, “National borders, the global economy and geopolitics: A view from Yemen”, Geopolitics, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2001, pp. 79-98; al-Qairy, Mohammed, “Yemeni islands: the gate to Yemen’s future”, Yemen Today Magazine, Playfair, R. Lambert (1859) A history of Arabia Felix or Yemen: from the commencement of the Christian era to the present time, Aden Education Society's Press, Byculla, Bombay. Enders, Klaus-Stefan, “Yemen in the 1990s: from unification to economic reform”, International Monetary Fund, 2002, p. 4; Enders, Klaus-Stefan, Republic of Yemen: selected issues, International Monetary Fund Report, 2001. For history of Yemen especially under the British rule, see, Dresch, Paul (2001): A History of Modern Yemen, Cambridge University Press; Gavin, R.J (1975): 1

Aden under British Rule: 1839–1967, London: C. Hurst & Company; King, Gillian (1964): Imperial Outpost:-Aden: Its Place in British Foreign Policy, Chatham House Essay Series. Hh Sayeed, Ausaf, “India-Yemen Relations: Rich History & Bright Prospects”, p.2, available at, scribd.com 3 Ibid, p.1. See, Indian Associations, Organisation & Communities in Yemen, at, http://www.nrirealtynews.com/yemen.php A list of the visits is available at, “India-Yemen Relations”, http://www.mea.gov.in/mystart.php?id=50044543, p.2. Ibid. As sourced from Department of Commerce, Government of India, cited in, Ibid., 2


169 “Agreement between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the Republic of Yemen For The promotion and protection of investments”, October 30, 2002, can be seen at, http://www.finmin.nic.in/bipa/Yemen.pdf For economic and cultural relations between India and Yemen see, “Indian Companies in Yemen”, at official site of Indian Embassy to Yemen, at, http://www.eoisanaa.org/ For Indian scholarships offered to Yemen, see, http://www.iccrindia.net/generalscheme.html For details see, http://www.ugc.ac.in/new_initiatives/yemen.html


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