Economic engagement is the most vibrant aspect of the growing relations between India and the Arab world

This is an opportune moment for the business community to develop deeper links with the Arab world as high-level exchanges have promoted better understanding and cooperation, a top official of the Ministry of External Affairs has said.

The strong political understanding and goodwill between the Indian and Arab people provides tremendous potential to take economic engagement to a higher level, Secretary (CPV&OIA) Sanjay Bhattacharyya said at a FICCI event on India’s engagement with the Arab World on Monday.

“The key elements of our economic engagement are characterized by energy security, food security, human resource exchanges, growing trade and investment relations and strong connectivity. It is multi-faceted and extensive but the potential is bigger,” he noted.

Bhattacharyya said that India can expand its existing trade, investment and technology exchanges in larger economies like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, Egypt and Israel.

There was, however, a large untapped potential in less explored markets in several countries. He cited the examples of Iraq for hydrocarbon, construction, and medical; Syria for construction, medical, and education; Algeria for construction and defense; Morocco for manufacturing, FMCG, and tourism: Jordan for mining and tourism and Sudan for energy, mining, and medical.

Pointing out that 53 % of India’s oil imports and 41% of gas imports come from the region, he explained that India had stakes in oil blocks in Iraq, Syria, Libya, UAE, Yemen and South Sudan. “The nature of the partnership has evolved from mere hydrocarbon ties between buyer and seller to participation in upstream & downstream projects, joint ventures in refineries and building of strategic oil reserves. We are also embarking on a partnership in renewables.” he said.

According to him, the economic engagement was the most vibrant aspect of the growing relations between India and the Arab world. “India’s corporate presence in the Arab world has grown in construction, FMCG, IT & ITES, banking, power, fertilizer, automobiles, chemicals, petrochemicals, tourism, healthcare and pharmaceuticals,” he pointed out.

The COVID-19 pandemic had prompted great cooperation with the Arab world, with India sending emergency medical supplies and healthcare professionals to many countries, Bhattacharyya pointed out. This cooperation included repatriation of stranded people in both directions.

“We are ready to support in vaccine availability from India, as we will be the largest producers, once the vaccine is ready,” he said.

He emphasized that the Arab region was part of India’s extended neighborhood and this was reflected in its Look/Act West policy.