India has stepped up its medical diplomacy with Gulf countries to stave off the possibility of a mass exodus of its expatriate population that would make its evacuations from Wuhan and elsewhere pale in comparison, sources say.
The Prime Minister and senior diplomats have been in touch with all Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that together host over 50 lakh Indians and send back remittances worth over 40 billion dollars every year. In fact, sources draw attention to Mr. Narendra Modi speaking with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin-Salman as early as March 17.
When Indian missions reported signs of restiveness among expatriate community, Mr. Modi conducted Gulf diplomacy in two stages. While remaining in touch with Saudi Arabia, the dominant power in the six-member GCC, he spoke to leaders of Abu Dhabi and Qatar on March 26. This was followed by phone calls to the rulers of Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
Indian workers live in hutments and with a rudimentary public health infrastructure in all Arab countries, sources apprehend there could be a clamour to get out, if there is a turn in Covid situation in areas where they live.
That is the reason behind India stepping up medical diplomacy. A 15-member medical team is already in Kuwait to train its medical staff and thus increase its capability to independently handle the outbreak. India has also lined up several of these countries as the first recipients of hydroxycholorquine (HCQ).