India seeks Kuwaiti funds in infrastructure, signs three pacts (Lead)

April 7th, 2009 - 11:25 pm ICT by IANS  

By Manish Chand
Kuwait, April 7 (IANS) With recession hitting its ambitious plans to expand infrastructure, India Tuesday turned to the oil-rich Kuwait for investments in projects ranging from petrochemicals and power to the construction of ports and airports.

The two countries also sought to give a 21st century complexion to their multi-faceted ties by signing three pacts in areas of culture, education and science and technology.

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari met Amir Of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, and discussed with him a range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including expansion of economic ties, the financial meltdown and enhancing cooperation in combating terrorism.

“India is in a position to absorb $500 billion investment in the next decade or so to meet the growing infrastructural needs. It is here that we see the new horizon of engagement with the Gulf region,” Ansari told leading industrialists and fund managers at the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.

“Economic growth in India represents an opportunity for economies in our neighbourhood, including this region. The biggest opportunity is in infrastructure development,” he said.

Making a pitch for foreign direct and portfolio investments from Kuwait, Ansari said: “Fertilizer production, for instance, offers opportunity for businessmen and investors wanting to safeguard their investments in troubled times and earn a profitable return on their investments.”

Kuwait reciprocated India’s enthusiasm. “India will be a centre of power in Asia, the most attractive destination for FDI and perhaps one of the fastest growing economy in the world,” said Ali Mohammed Thunayan Al-Ghanim, chairman of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The vice president and Kuwait’s Amir exchanged experiences on how Kuwait and India have dealt with the global financial crisis. They also discussed how investment cooperation can be exchanged between the two countries,” N. Ravi, secretary (East) in India’s external affairs ministry, told reporters after the meeting.

The two leaders underlined the need to impart a “21st century dimension” to the relationship and discussed ways to chaperon “a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and businessmen” to take the relationship to new heights.

The two sides signed three agreements to encourage exchange of scholars, scientists, researchers and cultural figures between the two countries.

Ansari, who arrived here Monday on a three-day visit, met four senior ministers, Acting Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al Hamad Al-Sabah, Finance Minister Mustafa Jassem Mohammad al-Shimali, Foreign Minister Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

The discussions centred on encouraging Kuwaiti investment in petrochemicals, fertilizers, power generation, power distribution and the construction of ports and airports, Ravi said.

Despite the global meltdown and a sharp plunge in oil prices, Kuwait is set to record over $4 billion surplus this year and is now looking to India. According to official estimates, Kuwait has a total budget surplus of $113 billion over the past nine fiscal years and sovereign wealth fund amounting to $80 billion.

Kuwait, home to 580,000 Indians, contributes 12 percent of India’s total crude oil imports. Bilateral trade grew to $8.4 billion last year.

The two countries also stressed on joint efforts at the international level to combat terrorism.

Ansari said peace and stability were essential prerequisites for the development of economic relations and stressed on more cooperation in ensuring freedom of navigation and safety of sea lanes in the Persian Gulf through which most of Indian oil imports pass.

The two sides discussed intensifying negotiations between India and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to conclude a landmark free trade area agreement that has the potential to multiply their economic relations manifold.

“We have had intensive negotiations for achieving an India-GCC Free Trade Agreement. It is our hope that this would conclude at the earliest to mutual benefit,” Ansari said while underlining India’s commitment to pursuing its Look West policy to strengthen relations with the Gulf countries.

India and the GCC have already held three rounds of negotiations on FTA. The fourth round was scheduled to be held in December last year, but recession came in the way.

New dates are likely to be finalised soon, Ravi said.

The GCC comprises Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman.

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