Dr. Fakhro opens Bahrain-India Investment Forum.
During the opening ceremony, Dr. Fakhro delivered a speech in which he expressed his pleasure to visit India and accompany His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa on such an important ooficial State visit.
He said bilateral relations had been boosted by the visits of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa the Prime Minister in 2004 and his Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier, in 2012.
He praised the "enthusiasm and genuine friendship of the Indian people, an enthusiasm which I must say has grown even more over the past year, and will no doubt expand exponentially from His Majesty's landmark visit."
The Minister noted to Bahrain-India relations which lasted from 3200 to 330 BC. At first trading in Omani copper and then, advancing on to the 16th century, Bahrain became a centre for pearls and pearl trading which persisted until the trade in 'natural' pearls dwindled world-wide due to the creation of 'cultured' pearls in the early 20th century, but which happily coincided with the discovery of oil in Bahrain in 1932.
The Minister added that in the 19th century, the linkage between Bahrain and India was cemented through the involvement of the British in both countries; at first through the British East India Company and then directly by the British Government. It was not surprising then that, for a period in its history, Bahrain was defacto being administered from India. It is also not surprising that the 'Hakims' or leaders of Bahrain, the forefathers of Bahraini's monarchy, from the mid-19th century had close personal ties with India and indeed with some members of the family having resided and been educated in India.
The minister noted that many of the Bahrain merchant families have trading links with India, and it was common, even prior to the 20th century, for these businesses to have a trusted employee or family member resident in India to supervise the logistics of trade. As a matter of fact my own family, which traded in food products among many, provides such an example. It is also interesting to note that until the issuance of the Bahraini Dinar in 1965, the currency used for commerce was the Gulf Rupee, which was issued by the Reserve Bank of India and was equivalent to the Indian rupee.
Dr. Fakhro pointed out that "our relationship with India played a role, if you will, in shaping the characteristics of Bahrain through education, and underpinned the development of Bahrain into a financial, services and business hub premised on the legitimacy which only a solid legal infrastructure, application of international rules and Agreements, non-discrimination and respect for the rights of individuals."
He added that "many of our citizens, even Ministers, were educated in India and continues to develop this cultural and emotional bond. In the modern era we then see Bahrain being the first country in the region to concentrate on the development of commercial laws and anti-money laundering, which in my view shows parallels to the past, where Bahrain has always respected international norms, and as a consequence has been 'ahead of the game', and this is the basis from which our reputation as an International Financial Services and business centre emanates."
Dr. Fakhro stressed that "Bahrain became an independent state in 1971, some 25 years after India, and to this day continues to develop both its political, social and economic policies based on those same characteristics which were enveloped through the early relationship which we had with India, particularly during the reign of His Majesty the King. The economic and trade relationship and cooperation between the Kingdom of Bahrain and India, has been an important factor in enhancing development in Bahrain, which has to a large extent been achieved on the back of Asian manpower, skills and expertise."
Bahrain's non-oil trade with India has grown by more than 135% in the period between 2006 and 2011 to reach US$882 million in 2011. The overall trade volume that includes both oil and non-oil trade in 2011 amounted to US$2.5 billion, up over 280% over the US$666 million of 2006, he emphasised.
Bahrain is home to  companies with Indian ownership, a further  branches of Indian companies operating in the fields of aviation and management services, engineering, banking and telecommunications, as well as  commercial agencies. Indian nationals, some 350,000 make up some 50 % of the expatriate population in Bahrain, and working at all levels in practically all professions from carpenters to doctors, storekeepers to pharmacists, all of whom play a continuing and important role in Bahrain's socio-economic development, and of course provide an important source of foreign earnings through remittances sent back to India.
The Minister valued the expertise of "our Indian residents, nationals and friends, and welcome Indian investors in all aspects of our economy. The Government is doing everything it can to continuously improve the economic environment in Bahrain and in particular to remove any unnecessary delays in the administrative systems, in line with our Vision 2030 targets which we are determined to achieve, and for me this translates into providing a higher level of industrial and commercial services, more serviced industrial land availability, and to generally raising the standard of our already business friendly commercial environment. Political Reform and the Rule of Law are our doctrine in Bahrain."
He noted that Bahrain is the ideal location for Indian businesses to leverage on the excellent transport and communication links and Bahrain's position within the GCC, to tap the enormous regional and wider MENA region markets. In addition to Bahrain's Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States, holds and has done for Indian businesses producing in Bahrain for the US export market. There are many companies in Bahrain already benefiting from the significant competitive advantages which duty free imports into the United States offer, and I would encourage more Indian manufacturers to take advantage of what we have to offer.
The Ministry of Industry and Commerce's industrial policy, in support of the overall Government Vision 2030, is firmly anchored in the premise that manufacturing is important to promote economic growth and development, and a core element in that policy is making more industrial land available for future projects to support the growing demand, and to support manufacturing towards higher levels of innovation and productivity. In fact during this visit we are signing two agreements with JBF and Chemco both from India to set manufacturing in Bahrain to name but a few, some 18 MoUs or Agreements are also being signed.
(Directorate of Public Relations & Media at Ministry of Industry and Commerce)
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BNA 1522 GMT 2014/02/20
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