Manmohan Singh lauds role of Indian diaspora in Oman’s development

November 9th, 2008 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMuscat, Nov 9 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday lauded the contribution of the large expatriate Indian community in Oman for its contribution to the development of this Gulf nation.”You represent close to 500,000 Indians in Oman, the largest expatriate group in the country,” Singh said, while addressing a gathering of the Indian diaspora at the Indian embassy here.

“You are a vibrant and industrious community. You are a microcosm of the multicultural and multi-religious diversity of India,” he said.

Singh had reached Muscat Saturday for a three-day tour of Oman and Qatar, his first to the Gulf since he became prime minister.

Stating that traders and merchants traveled the seas between India and Oman for centuries, he said: “Today, you are employing your skills to build a prosperous Oman and a new life to yourselves and your families… The Omanese leaders have expressed appreciation to me for your qualities of hard work, for your civic sense and for your discipline. The nation is proud of you.”

He described the contribution of the Indian diapsora in Oman to India’s development as invaluable.

“Annual remittances from Oman to India are more than $780 million. This is a reflection of your ties with the motherland and your confidence in India,” he said.

According to a World Bank report this year, India is the highest receiver of remittances from abroad.

Around 5.7 million Indians from across the world sent $27 billion as remittances in 2007 and the Gulf accounted for a large chunk of it.

“I hope you will continue to display the same confidence in the future and invest in the future of our children and grandchildren,” the prime minister said.

Singh mentioned that over 130 firms from India are currently engaged in Oman as also several Omani companies in India.

“We will continue to encourage a much greater flow of investment into each other’s countries,” he said.

“Yesterday, a memorandum of understanding was signed for the establishment of the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund. This is only the beginning. I hope this fund will open the door for far greater investment and economic cooperation between our two countries.”

The fund has been set up with a seed capital of $100 million - expandable to $1.5 billion - and is designed to identify projects in infrastructure, health, tourism utility, urban infrastructure and other sectors in both countries. Special purpose vehicles will be set up for this.

Stating that the government was constantly alive to the welfare of overseas Indians, he cited the agreement in the field of manpower signed between India and Oman here Saturday.

“Yesterday, a memorandum of understanding was signed between India and Oman on labour mobility, protection and welfare of workers. This important initiative will provide framework for strengthening cooperation between our two countries in the field of human resource development,” he said.

According to the agreement signed by Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Oman’s Minister for Manpower Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Abdullah Al Bakri, the two sides shall take measures to facilitate the recruitment of Indian manpower in Oman.

It will also check illegal recruitment, violation of workers’ rights and human trafficking.

“The ministry is in the process of establishing Overseas Indian Welfare Funds in all our missions in the Gulf. The Overseas Workers Recource Centre, which is a toll free helpline, has been established for Indian workers in the Gulf,” he said.

He also mentioned the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre set up to help overseas Indians invest in India and the Scholarship Programme for Diaspora Children.

Stating that India-Oman relations are based on solid foundations, he said: “Each one of you has an important role to play in further cementing this very important relationship and in spreading the message of goodwill at the people-to-people level.”

The prime minister’s speech was greeted with prolonged applause in the packed auditorium at the new Indian embassy complex in the Al Khwair locality here.

Members of the audience also got the opportunity to personally greet the prime minister on the dais.

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