India, Oman to turn ties into mighty strategic partnership: PM

November 9th, 2008 - 10:59 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMuscat, Nov 9 (IANS) India and Oman will work to turn their current bilateral relationship into a “mighty strategic partnership”, according to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.“The political leadership of Oman and India are united in our resolve to cement our relationship into a mighty strategic relationship,” Singh said in comments to the media Saturday night, the first day of his three-day tour to Oman and Qatar, after a meeting with Oman’s Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said.

The visiting prime minister said the two sides discussed ways to boost ties between the countries to a higher level.

“We discussed the relationship between India and Oman. We discussed our economic relationship and also our security and defence relationship,” he said.

He added that India’s close relations with the Gulf region were also reviewed in the course of the discussions.

This is Singh’s first visit to the Gulf during his tenure as prime minister and the first to Oman by an Indian prime minister in a decade since Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit in 1998.

In his talks with the Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd, Singh hailed the impressive development Oman has witnessed under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said.

The talks covered a wide range of issues from bilateral cooperation, exploring investment opportunities and role of the private sector in the development process to providing Omani youth with training opportunities in Indian universities and vocational institutes.

In a statement to reporters after the talks, Fahd said that the two sides also discussed ways by which Oman can benefit from the Indian expertise in science and technology.

He added that the talks also dwelt on how to minimize the effect of the global financial crisis on India and Oman.

India and Oman signed two major memorandums of understanding (MoUs) here Saturday - one on boosting bilateral investment and another in the field of manpower.

India’s State Bank of India (SBI) and the State General Reserve Fund (SGRF) of the Sultanate of Oman signed the first MoU to set up the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund.

The new fund will bet set up with an initial seed capital of $100 million, which will be expandable to $1.5 billion.

The two sides will work towards “enlarging the size of the fund to a maximum of $1.5 billion which could be raised as long tenor debt and equity capital in several tranches over the next few years”, the MoU stated.

The fund will identify projects in infrastructure, health, tourism utility and urban infrastructure in both countries and will also set up special purpose vehicles for this.

The other MoU on manpower has been designed to check illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Minster for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Oman’s Minister for Manpower Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Abdullah Al Bakri signed the MoU.

“The two parties shall take measures to facilitate the recruitment f Indian manpower in the Sultanate of Oman and shall exchange visits between the officials in charge of manpower in the two countries for consultation in the area of job creation and generation of employment opportunities,” the MoU states.

Those recruited will be given protection under the labour laws of Oman.

A committee comprising at least three members from each side will be set up to ensure the implementation of the MoU.

Among other things, the committee will interpret the terms of the MoU in case of disputes and exchange information on illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

It will meet alternatively in India and Oman at least once a year.

The MoU stipulates that terms and conditions of employment in Oman shall be defined by an individual employment contract between the employee and the employer and authenticated by Oman’s Ministry of Manpower.

Unlike in other Gulf nations where Indians form a vast majority of the labour workforce in the booming construction industry, the profile of the expatriate Indian community in Oman is very different.

At 500,000, Indians form the largest expatriate community in Oman and are involved in a wide spectrum of professions.

Coming from all parts of India, they include skilled workers and technicians and professionals such as doctors, engineers, bankers, finance experts and senior management officers in the private sector.

On Sunday, the prime minister will meet representatives of the Indian community at a reception organized at the Indian embassy here.

He will then attend a luncheon meeting with Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said before departing for Qatar on the second and final leg of his Gulf tour.

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