India, Gulf working on multi-faceted cooperation

January 16th, 2009 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) India is working on a multi-faceted cooperation structure with the Gulf nations with that region becoming a key trading partner.India and the Gulf also share the need for continued political stability and security in the region, according to Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed.

“Common political and security concerns could translate into efforts for peace, security and stability in the region,” Ahamed told Bahrain’s Gulf Daily News newspaper.

“Emerging threat perceptions create fresh challenges and opportunities for enhancing cooperation.”

Terrorism, the minister said, was the foremost common threat faced by both sides and joint efforts were needed to counter this.

“We already have in place memorandums of understanding on defence cooperation with Oman and UAE (United Arab Emirates) and agreements with the rest of the countries to fight transnational crime and terrorism,” he said.

“This will help us bilaterally and collectively address issues of security in our region,” Ahamed said, adding that the Gulf occupied a strategic place in India’s foreign policy.

There are over 4.8 million expatriate Indians in the six Gulf nations of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Stating that the annual two-way trade between India and the Gulf crossed $50 billion in 2007-08, Ahamed said West Asia supplied more than 70 percent of India’s oil and gas requirements.

“The Gulf’s rich resources and the growing demands of India’s rapidly expanding economy make us the natural partners,” the minister was quoted as saying.

At the same time, he said, Gulf nations see India as a key investment destination.

Ahamed said negotiations between India and Gulf nations were continuing for a free trade agreement (FTA) between both sides.

The decision to set up an FTA was taken after the Framework Agreement on Economic Co-operation was signed between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in August 2004.

The minister also lauded the role of the expatriate Indian community in the Gulf for boosting ties between the two sides.

Indians in the Gulf also remit home around $10 billion annually, a key contribution to India’s economy.

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