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India adopts ’Look West’ Asia policy

India adopts ’look West Asia’ policy

23 August 2005

New Delhi: On the lines of its successful "Look East" policy to promote trade and investment with its Asian neighbours, India aims to adopt a similar policy for West Asia, an external affairs ministry official said here Tuesday.

Emphasising the special relations shared by India with its West Asian neighbours, Secretary (East) Rajiv Sikri said: "Just like our ’Look East’ policy, we must similarly come close to our West Asian neighbours."

Speaking at a seminar on "Indo-Gulf partnership" organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), Sikri pointed out that India had emerged as the second largest trading partner, after the US, of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.

In tune with the "Look West Asia" policy, India has appointed former senior diplomat Chinmaya Gharekhan as its special envoy to the Gulf region to promote cooperation in not just trade and investment but also in areas like IT, education, culture and tourism, senior external affairs ministry officials said.

Bilateral trade between India and GCC members has risen to $18-20 billion, excluding oil and gas imports by India that are worth about $20 billion.

"Traditional trade and investment partners like the Gulf will always occupy an important place in our external relations," said Sikri, expressing hope that negotiations on the India-GCC framework agreement on a proposed free trade area will help boost bilateral investment and trade.

Negotiations are also slated to start on better banking arrangements, setting up an information channel on investment opportunities, avoidance of double taxation and a treaty to promote and protect investment among other issues.

Highlighting the Oman-India Fertiliser Project, the largest non-oil Indian investment overseas, Sikri expressed hope that many such bilateral proposals will become a reality once the free trade agreement is concluded.

At the same time, he expressed keenness to have more Gulf investment flow into India. "Broad-based investment will further strengthen our already strong bilateral relations," he said.

Oman Ambassador Khalifa bin Ali Al-Harthy, who is Dean of Gulf envoys in India, said the second India-GCC industrial conference will be held in Muscat in January 2006.

"We hope further progress will be made at the meeting to boost bilateral trade and investment between GCC countries and India," he said.

"Already there is considerable investment from Oman in India in areas like IT and health while Indian investment is also flowing into Oman and other Gulf countries."