Yemen crisis: When Indian rupee was official currency of Aden

The efforts to rescue the Indians settled in Yemen is on and with each passing day of the crisis worsening the worries are getting bigger.

While the Indian government is moving heaven and earth to rescue the Indians settled in India, we need to also spare a thought for the 1,00,900 Indian Diaspora settled in Yemen since the 19th century.


One may recall Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Group, also started his career as a trader in Aden. The cultural and trade relations between India and Yemen date back to the 19th century.

Rough statistics would show that around that the 100,900 Indian Diaspora continues to live in Yemen and no matter how badly the conflict shapes out they cannot leave the country as they have made Yemen their home since a last century.

Tracing history of Indians in Yemen

In the year 1839 when Aden became a part of the British Empire and was administered by the Bombay Presidency, a force of 2000 India soldiers was established. The garrison of 2000 Indian soldiers was established with the intention of guarding the entrance to the Red Sea.

It was around the same time that the Indian currency was made the official currency of Aden. In the year 1937 the administration in Aden was made separate from India.

[Evacuated Indians from Yemen land in Kochi, Mumbai]

Post this development an Indian diplomatic mission was set up in Aden in the year 1950 and this was followed by the setting up of an Indian Embassy in Sana in the year 1970.

The Indians in Yemen

In the year 1885 the first batch of Indians began migrating into Yemen. One such migrant Cowasjee Shavaksha Dinshaw Adenwalla even set up the Fire Temple in Aden.

This began the migration of several Indians who came to Aden in search of trade prospects. Until the year 1955 the number of Indians who settled in Aden had risen to 15,817. The Indians decided to make Aden their home and even went on to set up the Jain Temple, Swamy Ayyappan and a Parsi temple.

[Yemen crisis: Nearly 350 Indian nationals evacuated]

However the year 1967 saw a major retreat of Indians from Aden after the British officially withdrew from there. However many Indians who had made Aden their home decided to stay back.

The prominent communities that stayed back in Aden were from the Bohra, Khoja and Kachchi communities. Over the year they became Yemeni citizens. Today there are 100,900 Indians who have become Yemeni citizens and are spread across the areas of Aden, Mukalla, Shihr, Lahaj, Mokha and Hodeidah.

The decline of law and order

The past few years have been extremely difficult for the Indian Diaspora in Yemen. While until 2010 there was a steady influx of Indians going to Yemen in search of jobs, the numbers began to decline once the political instability kicked in.

Until 2010 there were 14,000 Indians who had gone in search of jobs to Yemen. However in the following years the number drastically dropped to 5000. Today there are an estimated 3000 Indians in Yemen. Most of them are working as nurses and IT professionals.

Most of the Indians who had gone in search of jobs to Yemen hail from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

Trade will take a major hit

In the event of this never ending conflict, trade too would take a major hit. India's primary shipping route passes through the Gulf of Aden and the stakes involved are huge.

The ships passing through the Gulf of Aden would account for 60 billion dollars of exports and 50 billion dollars of imports each year. Today it is extremely volatile and the ships have been advised to avoid the Gulf of Aden.

Even when the conflict was not so bad the Indian Navy would guard the Gulf of Aden route to ensure that there was no untoward incident when the Indian ships passed through. However today the situation is extremely volatile and it is advised to avoid this route for sometime until the chaos settles down.

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