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'Business ties at all-time high'.

Muscat: The year 2010 has been an excellent year for bilateral relations between India and Oman and also for the development of contacts between the people of the two countries, according to Anil Wadhwa, Indian ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman.

Speaking to Times of Oman on the occasion of the 62nd Republic Day, Wadhwa said, "Bilateral trade has seen a steep increase and a number of new joint ventures were also established during the previous year. Some extraordinary projects like repatriation of 13,000 Indian nationals under amnesty scheme were also successfully accomplished and a number of high level visits were undertaken by both sides."

Informing that the Indian Embassy had been working to full capacity, he said, "Allocation of land to Indian School Darsait and Indian School Rustaq; organising India Oman Business seminars in five different cities in Oman; visit of Indian Council Cultural Relations sponsored troupes who performed in Muscat, Salalah and Nizwa and other cultural activities ranging from art exhibitions, musical nights, textiles shows, theatre plays to lecture series are some of the major events organised by the embassy which kept cultural ties on a growth path with Oman."

The Oman-India Joint Investment fund was formally signed and a 9 point report on focussed areas of economic cooperation between india and Oman was released, he said.

Important visits

Shedding light on the political relations between the two countries, Wadhwa said, "Political relations between the two countries are dynamic which can be illustrated by the high level visits from both countries. In 2010, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, minister for new and renewable energy, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, minister of state for external affairs, A.K. Antony, minister of defence, Anand Sharma, minister of commerce and industry, Salman Khurshid, minister of state for corporate and minority affairs and Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission visited Oman."

He added, "From Oman, Maqbool Ali Sultan, minister of commerce and industry, Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, minister of national economy and deputy chairman of Financial Aaffairs and Energy Resources Council, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, minister responsible for foreign affairs also visited India in 2010.

"The minister of commerce and industry is the chief guest in the Partnership Summit in Mumbai that opened yesterday. The summit is being organised by Confederation of Indian Industries and will conclude tomorrow. Oman is the partner state for this session of the summit. A number of visits during the current year are also expected," he informed.

Discussing the significant progress that has been made in the bilateral trade and commerce sector, Wadhwa said, "On the commercial front, I am particularly happy with the significant progress in bilateral trade and commerce. Bilateral trade has touched another milestone by crossing $4.5 billion during the last financial year, 2009-10 (the Indian financial year is from April 2009 to March 2010). In the current Omani financial year, 2010, bilateral trade has already crossed $2 billion in the first half itself."

He explained that apart from Oman India Fertilizer Company, a $969 million joint venture located at Sur, the Bharat Oman Refinery Limited, is about to start operations within the next couple of months. "This is another shining example of public sector joint venture between the two countries," he averred.

Informing that Jindal Shadeed Iron and Steel Plant in Sohar has become the biggest private sector investment from India in Oman, the ambassador said, "Recently, Duraline Middle East in cooperation with Al Jassar Group and Sagar Hospitals in cooperation with OHI have started their operations in Oman."

Investment funds

Stating that signing of the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund and the finalisation of the report of the Higher Committee on Economic Affairs which was headed by Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of Planning Commission of India and Mohammed Al Zubair, advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said were the major events of the year, Wadhwa said, "I am sure these two documents will provide a strong platform to enhance bilateral commercial and investment related activities between India and Oman. We have also concluded the 6th session of Joint Commission Meeting as well as the Joint Business Council Meeting in the month of August and the 3rd India Trade Fair took place in September."

In 2010, the embassy organised Indo-Oman business seminars promoting Indian brands in Oman in five different cities i.e. Sur, Sohar, Salalah, Nizwa and Buraimi. Indo-Oman Business seminars for this year have already been concluded in Nizwa and in Salalah earlier this month. The embassy will follow this up with similar seminars in Sur and Sohar.

Talking of the status of the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund, ambassador said, "The fund is set to start its operation later this month through its Mumbai based management company. Once operational, the fund which is sector/country neutral would identify investible projects in either of the countries."

The ambassador informed that the sixth session of the India-Oman Joint Commission meeting and the finalisation of the report of the Higher Committee on Economic Affairs have charted out some course of action to be taken during the year.

"All nine priority sectors are expected to be covered for implementation of action plan during the coming months. We expect the finalisation of a number of projects in these fields, especially in the field of tourism, healthcare, chemicals and fertilizers," he said.

Wadhwa informed that this year more than 35,000 Omani nationals visited India under tourist, business and medical visa facilities.

People to people ties

"Growing business and cultural links are boosting people to people contact. Emphasis of Indian hospitals in improving medical facilities which already match international standards and compete with developed countries has made India a prime destination for medical tourism. India has always been among one of the most favoured destinations for tourism," he said.

Addressing the Indian community as well the Omani government and its people, he said, "The occasion of the Republic Day is our proud inheritance from our national movement. We have worked hard to translate the vision of freedom, sovereignty, secularism and multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country into reality, through legislative action, new programmes and new policies.

"The government is committed to improve the level of social and human development through vast and increased fiscal support for inclusive growth. On this happy occasion, I extend my warm greetings to the expatriate Indian community in Oman and congratulate them for the respect they have earned in the Sultanate which they have achieved with their excellence in work, and their law-abiding and peaceful nature.

"They have made our country proud. I am also thankful to the government of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said for providing a hospitable and peaceful environment for the Indian expatriate community. I pray for the good health, prosperity and well-being of His Majesty and his government and for the overall development of Oman and the Omani people."

Muscat Press and Publishing House SAOC 2011

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 25, 2011
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