Bahrain-India trade ties in spotlight at key talks

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Foreign Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa and India’s External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will address a key meeting of the Indian diaspora in Bahrain on Saturday.

During a two-day official visit to the kingdom, Ms Swaraj is also expected to meet the leadership and discuss bilateral, regional and global issues.

Transportation Minister and Economic Development Board acting chief executive Kamal Ahmed is also expected to address the meeting.

‘The purpose of ‘Indian Diaspora Engagement Meet’ is to explore bilateral investment opportunities and highlight the initiatives taken by the new Indian government to spur growth and attract foreign investment,’ Ambassador Dr Mohan Kumar told a Press briefing at the Indian Embassy yesterday.

‘Given the ease of doing business in Bahrain, the meeting is both timely and appropriate,’ he said.

According to Dr Kumar, following a series of high-level bilateral engagements, including the visit to India by His Majesty King Hamad in February this year, it was realised that there was interest in Bahrain for new sectors with high growth potential in India.

‘That’s why this time, we will be highlighting real estate and its investment trusts, agriculture and food processing, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and medical tourism,’ he said.

Bahrain-India bilateral trade is currently believed to be close to $2 billion, up from $1.3bn, a year ago.

The meeting is organised by the Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre (OIFC), a public private partnership between the Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry and Confederation of Indian Industry.

It was formed to facilitate economic engagement of the Indian diaspora with India.

OIFC chief executive Charu Mathur, who also addressed the Press, said 36 delegates, led by Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry secretary and OIFC chairman Prem Narain, are expected to participate.

‘The OIFC has shortlisted 242 projects across India, ranging in size from $1.6 million to $80m, which will be showcased to potential investors,’ she said.

‘We are seeking inward investments from Indian diaspora, Bahraini nationals and other expatriates of the region.

‘Moreover, the meeting would also help the participants understand the investment policy framework in India,’ Ms Mathur added.

‘The Indian government realises how a robust investment framework with supportive policies, simple and rational procedures, strong regulations to protect investors’ interest are important,’ Ms Mathur added.

Dubai-based Nirvana Consultancy’s chief analyst Varun Sutholiya said there is renewed interest in India as an investment destination.

‘During his just concluded visit to Japan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Japanese business community that a ‘red carpet, not red tape’ awaits them when they come to India.

‘This sends a strong message to the world that the new Indian government has a focused policy direction,’ he said.

Most analysts assess India’s GDP growth forecast for the year to come at close to 5.5 per cent.

More than 400 delegates from Bahrain are expected to participate in the meeting.

It will include high net-worth members of Indian community, senior or middle-level Indian employees playing an important role in the operations of established Bahraini business organisations and Bahraini entrepreneurs/businessmen.

The OIFC plans to hold such platforms on an annual basis.

The next business meeting of the centre will be held at the forthcoming Regional ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ from October 16 to 18 in London.

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