India keen to boost economic ties with Gulf nations
Tuesday, 29 May 2007, 07:00 Hrs
Mumbai: Underlining the importance of the Gulf countries to India, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath Tuesday invited companies from the region to invest in this country, especially to tap the $300 billion opportunity in infrastructure development and oil refineries. "Infrastructure is an area where India offers immense investment opportunities," Kamal Nath told the inaugural session of a two-day meeting between India and six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). "I invite investors from the GCC countries to make the most of the opportunities India provides by entering into joint ventures, collaborations and partnerships in different sectors," he added. In the area of energy, Kamal Nath said GCC countries were a major source of oil to India, meeting almost two-thirds of its requirements. "India is looking at refining services to the Gulf. I invite oil companies from the Gulf to set up facilities in India. It will not only add a new dimension to the India-GCC trade but also help in enhancing capacity." The minister said India plans to add 100,000 MW of power in the next 10 years even as potential existed for investment in liquefied natural gas terminals and modernisation of airports, with air traffic growing at 30 percent per annum. "Exciting opportunities also exist in the farm and food processing sector, as value addition in this area is only 16 percent despite the fact that India is among the world's largest producer of milk, vegetables and fruits," he said. "India's investment requirement in this sector would be around $15 billion." Gems, jewellery, healthcare and biotechnology were other areas where Kamal Nath said GCC countries could invest in. He added that opportunities existed in agro parks, food parks and special economic zones, among other dedicated industry centres. "There is political will on both sides to take the India-GCC trade to the next level of engagement and now the onus is on the trade and investment community to translate this will into a reality that augurs well for both sides." Kamal Nath backed his comments with some statistics and said, in the past five years, India's trade with GCC countries had risen more than fourfold from $5.5 billion in 2000-01 to $23.4 billion in 2005-06. "The period witnessed buoyancy in exports and imports. Signing of the Framework Agreement on Economic Co-operation between India and GCC countries in 2004 was another milestone in the Indo-GCC economic relations," the minister said. In this regard, Kamal Nath said, India was also in the process of negotiating a free trade pact with the GCC countries and assured that its final contours would be finalised soon. Among the delegates present at the meeting were Oman's Commerce and Industry Minister Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan and his Saudi Arabian counterpart Hashim bin Abdullah bin Hashim Al-Yamani. Others included representatives of leading industrial establishments from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as India.