Oman readies to welcome Manmohan, trade and energy top agenda

November 7th, 2008 - 4:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghMuscat, Nov 7 (IANS) The oil-rich sultanate of Oman is all set to roll out the red carpet to welcome Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who comes here Saturday on the first leg of his two-nation visit. This is Manmohan Singh’s first trip to the Gulf region that is home to a 4.5 million-strong Indian diaspora. It will also be the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Oman in a decade; the last prime minister to visit was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s in 1998.

The Indian government is leaving no stone unturned to make Manmohan Singh’s three-day trip to Oman and Qatar a success.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs E. Ahamed will be accompanying Manmohan Singh.

National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who enjoy cabinet minister status, will also be part of the entourage.

Manmohan Singh will hold talks with Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Al Said on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including energy security, economic ties and the international financial crisis.

His visit to Oman and Qatar comes at a crucial time when the world is looking at the cash-rich Gulf afresh in the wake of the global financial crisis and India is planning to give more economic and strategic weight to its ties with the Gulf region.

According to India’s Ambassador to Oman Anil Wadhwa, India and Oman will sign three key pacts during the course of the visit.

“There is the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for creating the India-Oman Fund,” Wadhwa told IANS.

“The fund is intended to create seed capital, identification of infrastructure projects in India and Oman and creating special purpose vehicles,” he said.

The second is a manpower agreement between Oman’s ministry of manpower and India’s ministry of overseas Indian affairs.

Oman is home to around 500,000 Indians.

A third agreement will be signed between the foreign service training institutes of the two countries.

Apart from this, a number of other issues will come up for discussion when Manmohan Singh meets Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos Bin Al Said.

“This will include the regional situation, the global financial crisis and bilateral economic ties,” Wadhwa said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to cross the $1 billion mark by the end of this year.

The proposed India-GCC free trade agreement is also expected to come up for discussion during the course of the discussions.

“This will include the regional situation, the global financial crisis and bilateral economic ties,” Wadhwa said.

The visit to Qatar - home to around 420,000 expatriate Indians - aims at bolstering energy ties between the two countries. India has one of the oldest labour welfare pacts with Qatar dating back to 1975, an additional protocol to which was signed last year. Nine years ago, India signed an agreement for exporting 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied gas from Qatar annually in two phases.

Labour welfare, bilateral economic ties and maritime security will be among the major issues that will come up for discussion and pacts will be signed in this connection. In the wake of the global financial crisis, the Gulf has emerged as a key player in the world economic order.

Leaders of western counties have been visiting the region over the last couple of weeks seeking help to tide over the crisis.

India is looking at the Gulf countries as an important partner in India’s economic growth path. When Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee visited Saudi Arabia earlier this year, he had said that there was scope for investment of around $600 billion in India’s infrastructure sector.

Related Stories

    Posted in Uncategorized |