PM's Oman-Qatar visit to
boost investment, energy security
Nov 8 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Oman
and Qatar Nov 8-10, his first in the over four-year tenure
of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, is expected
to ring in a new chapter in India's relations with Gulf countries.
visit should not be seen from only the perspective of Oman
and Qatar, but also from that of the Gulf as a whole since
the region is being seen as a key partner in India's growth
in the 21st century.
from the 4.8 million-strong Indian diaspora, who form a significant
chunk of the Gulf workforce, the region is important for two
reasons - energy security and bilateral investment and trade.
the world grapples with a financial crisis sparked by the
credit crunch in the West, the Gulf is turning out to be a
key player in the world economic order.
current international economic and financial situation provides
a unique opportunity for India to leverage the vast surplus
funds in the Gulf for our development needs, and to accelerate
trade and investment flows into each other's countries,"
Manmohan Singh said in a statement ahead of his visit to the
of the highlights of the visit will be the signing of an India-Oman
Joint Investment Fund.
decision to set up the fund was taken during the visit of
Oman's Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers
Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said to New Delhi in December last
fund is intended to create seed capital, identification of
infrastructure projects in India and Oman, and creating special
purpose vehicles," India's Ambassador to Oman Anil Wadhwa
India's Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee visited
Saudi Arabia in April this year, he had said that there
is scope for investment of $600 billion in India's infrastructure
now, in the wake of the global financial crisis, various surveys
and research reports have stated that India would turn out
to be a key destination for investors from the region in the
at the same time, some say, India's long-term economic outlook
will depend upon the government's ability to invest in infrastructure.
as the Gulf is witnessing a $1.9 trillion construction boom,
investors of the region have been increasingly looking to
expand their portfolios abroad. By all accounts, India and
China figure prominently in their plans.
bilateral trade will be another key area that the Indian side
will explore during meetings with Omani and Qatari leaders.
A free trade agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) will figure prominently, as Oman is hosting
a key GCC summit this year.
from Oman and Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprise the GCC and India figures
as a major export-import partner for all these countries.
trade between India and Qatar stands at $2.6 billion, boosted
largely by Qatar's gas exports to the subcontinent, while
that between India and Oman is expected to touch $1 billion
by the end of this year.
India's exports had for long been consumer items, foodstuff
and industrial equipment, information
technology has now assumed great importance too.
the West, the traditional market for India's IT firms, reels
under a global financial crisis, the Gulf is an alternative
with great potential.
to International Data Corp figures, the Middle East and African
IT market is expected to soon reach $80 billion from $51 billion
prime minister's visit to Qatar will also underscore the region's
importance for India in terms of energy security.
attach great importance to our ties in Qatar, which is one
of the largest and most reliable suppliers of our energy needs
from the region," Manmohan Singh said in his statement.
was in 1999 that India and Qatar signed an agreement, according
to which Qatar started supplying 7.5 million metric tonnes
of liquefied natural gas (LNG) per year - five million metric
tonnes to Dahej in Gujarat and 2.5 million metric tonnes to
Kochi in Kerala.
has significantly increased India's profile in Qatar and vice
versa. But India wants to upgrade the current buyer-seller
relationship with Qatar in this regard into a more sustainable
the complementarities that exist between us, I am confident
that we can build a mutually beneficial strategic partnership
in this sector," Manmohan Singh said.
will mean opportunities for Indian companies to participate
in upstream and downstream activities in Qatar's gas fields.
development and labour welfare issues will also come up for
discussion as Indians form a vast majority of the Gulf's workforce.
already has a longstanding labour welfare pact with Qatar
and this time a manpower development agreement will also be
signed with Oman.
are around 500,000 Indians in Oman and 420,000 in Qatar and
the prime minister's visit will surely mean a lot to the Indian
diaspora in this part of the world.