Sandeep Dikshit

Projects in energy, power, fertilizer sectors to be identified

Joint India-Oman fund for $50 million

Climate favourable to deepen ties with Gulf countries

ON BOARD PRIME MINISTER’S SPECIAL AIRCRAFT: Fresh from inking a pact on a joint investment fund with Oman, India has also secured an understanding from Qatar for investing $5 billion in energy-related sectors.

The discussions with the top leadership of both the countries on channelling their surplus funds to India is part of the government’s strategy to ensure that the needs of the infrastructure sector continue to be met despite the global credit squeeze.

“We discussed the modality of Qatar investing about $5 billion in India. In the next two to three months, we will work out the modalities to identify projects in the areas of energy, power, fertilizer and other related activities to enable the government of Qatar take firm decisions about the areas these investments could be directed,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after wrapping up his three-day visit to the Gulf countries of Oman and Qatar.

The joint India-Oman fund, with a contribution of $50 million from each side with the scope of raising the amount to $1.5 billion, could become a major vehicle for channelising investments from Oman to India, noted the Prime Minister.

Dr. Singh termed the climate as highly favourable to widen and deepen India’s relationship with the Gulf countries.

“At a time when the global economy is hit by crises, there are opportunities for the countries of the Gulf and India working together to promote economic trade and investment cooperation,” he felt.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the visits were in the pipeline for a long time and important not only from the point of India’s economy and security but also because 50 lakh Indians were working in the Gulf.

Remittances from Oman and Qatar alone averaged $800 million. “So our effort has been to ensure that our workers get a fair treatment, that they are well looked after besides exploring the possibility of expanded economic, trade and investment cooperation with Oman and Qatar,” he added.

In both countries, the objective was to ensure the well-being of Indian workers. In Oman, India signed an MoU on manpower which was a “significant step” in ensuring that workers from India would be treated fairly.

“This is not to say that they are not being treated well. We are grateful to Oman and Qatar for creating a hospitable environment for our workers to earn their livelihood but there is always scope for improvement,” the Prime Minister said.

Since India had been trying to negotiate a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Prime Minister felt it would be a good idea to visit the Gulf countries to request for the support of Oman and Qatar in the negotiations.

On the liquefied natural gas front, both sides agreed to consider enhancing the allocation in the next year or two.

India had earlier signed an agreement with Qatar for 7.5 million tonnes per annum of LNG of which five million tonnes are being currently made available and 2.5 million tonnes will be available by the last quarter of 2009.

The Prime Minister said the two sides also discussed the possibility of expanding cooperation in regard to supply of fertilizers and investing in fertilizer plants in India or expanding production in existing plants in Qatar with an assured market in India.

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