India-Arab trade can double by 2014: Anand Sharma

February 8th, 2010 - 8:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Shashi Tharoor New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) India will strive towards doubling its trade with the Arab region by 2014, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma said here Monday.
“We will look towards doubling bilateral trade with the Arab world by 2014. We can do it,” Sharma said at the inaugural session of the two-day second India-Arab Investment projects conclave, organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The current trade between India and the Arab states stands at $114 billion per year.

Sharma urged the sovereign wealth funds based in the region to look towards India, noting it was now one of the most attractive investment destination in the world.

“Hopefully, we will grow at about 7.5 percent this year. Our government is determined to further accelerate the momentum of growth,” Sharma said.

While the Gulf region was a rich source for India’s energy needs, trade was not restricted to that sector. “Our trade is booming and even in difficult times, the trade has increased to the extent of 70 percent for some countries like Morocco and Algeria,” he said.

Speaking at a ministerial session, United Arab Emirate’s Minister for Foreign Trade, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid al Qasimi, pointed out that India has become her country’s top trade partner. “Our bilateral trade was already reaching $48 billion and this includes only non-oil sector,” she said.

The UAE minister invited Indian businessmen to invest her in country in the area of renewable and nuclear energy. “I will be going on a roadshow in India from here and will be back again in mid-March. This shows the priority that we give to India,” she said.

Mentioning the close contacts between the two countries, she said that there were over 475 flights between India and her country in a week.

Earlier, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said that the total number of air flights between India and Arab world far exceeded those between India and the rest of the world.

Of course, the high traffic was mainly due to the presence of five million Indian workers. The UAE minster mentioned that the Indian workers were an asset to her nation and hoped to “institutionalise” their welfare.

Similarly, Tharoor mentioned that during his recent visit to Oman, he had met with the manpower minister, to talk about the issues related to Indian workers. “There was a clear appreciation that these Indian workers are an asset to their receiving countries and that if conditions governing their work and life are improved, it would be a ‘win-win’ proposition for all concerned. This will bring enormous benefits to our relations,” he said.

Over 250 businessmen from the Arab world, ranging from Sudan to Saudi Arabia were participating in the two day conclave, which was being also attended by ten ministers from the region.

The Sudanese minister of investment George Bureng Nyombe said that his country was looking forwards to investment from India in the hydropower sector, instead of only in the hydrocarbon sector.

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