India, Arab world seek to expand ties

Vinod Nair –
Dec. 14: Trade relations with India and Oman will continue to grow on a grand scale and testimony to this is the over 700,000-strong Indian population in the country, said Saeed bin Saleh al Kiyumi, Chairman, Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI). Speaking on the sidelines of the Fifth Arab-Indian Partnership Conference, he said Oman gives top priority to its relations with India.
Al Kiyumi said Oman is keen to have an Arab Chamber of Commerce in India, and OCCI is working in that direction. A decision in this regard is expected at this meeting, it is learnt.
Indra Mani Pandey, Indian Ambassador to Oman, said there has been a decline in trade between the two countries.
From $5.7 billion in the year ending March 2014, it reached $4.2 billion the following year and then $3.6 billion.
Figures are likely to remain unchanged this year, but may see an improvement following an increase in the commodity prices.
Devin Narang, member, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Ficci), said: “The two-way trade between Arab and India should be trillion dollars instead of $120 billion. There are several opportunities for both sides to do business in various sectors.”
The volume of trade exchanges between the two sides amounted to $119 billion in 2015, dominated by India’s imports of oil and gas (77.5 per cent). It was noted that India is a strategic trade partner for the Arab world and also its second largest trading partner. Arab investments in India amount to $125 billion, concentrated in the sectors of infrastructure, agriculture and food industries, real estate and oil and gas, information technology and communications technology.
Indian investments in Arab countries reached only $6 billion and it should take advantage of the free trade agreements with Arab states linked together.
It was noted that there are eight million Indian citizens working in Arab countries, especially in the Gulf countries.
“Apart from contributing to the Indian economy through $36 billion in remittances, they are contributing to building bridges of culture between Arab and Indian civilisations,” said Yahya bin Saeed al Jabri,
Chairman of the Special Economic Zone Authority at Duqm (SEZAD).
His Highness Sayyid Kamal bin Fahd al Said, the Chief Guest at the 5th Arab- Indian Partnership Conference, said to the Observer after the opening and ministerial session, “It is an honour to host this conference in Muscat. This conference has a lot of potential for partnership between Arab countries and India. India has a long history of trade with a lot of Arab countries but especially with the Sultanate. This conference on partnership has come at a perfect time with the current economic circumstances the world is going through and everyone is looking forward to diversify their sources of income. So it is the right time to sit together and discuss. There are lots of possibilities and we are sure there will be positive outcome from these discussions.”
When asked which areas would be ideal to focus on, Sayyid Kamal said, “When we talk about economic diversification we should not exclude any area, each Arab country has its own economic advantage or its own expertise that they can benefit from. So I think each country has to see the best they can develop according to their strategy and plans.”