Huge untapped potential to expand trade ties between India. Gulf: MEA

There is a huge potential to expand economic engagement between India and the Gulf region including through diversification of the trade basket beyond hydrocarbons, a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Wednesday.

Secretary in the MEA Sanjay Bhattacharyya, in an address at a seminar, also said both sides can explore forging of partnerships to develop oil and gas reserves in various parts of India.

“Developing the significant fields in Kutch district, Cauvery basin, Mahanadi basin, Hugli basin and offshore locations in Bay of Bengal will broaden hydrocarbon production and provide win-win solutions longer into the future,” he said.

The senior diplomat said implementation of joint projects on both sides and in third countries, stronger corporate presence, expansion of connectivity and people-to-people exchanges can add a new dimension to the already strong ties.

Bhattacharyya, who heads the Overseas Indian Affairs as well as the Consular, Passport and Visa division in the MEA, also said diversification of the trade basket beyond hydrocarbons can give new impetus to trade relations between India and the Gulf region.

Fifty-three per cent of India’s oil imports and 41 per cent of gas imports come from the region.

“India has stakes in oil blocks in Iraq, Syria, Libya, UAE, Yemen and South Sudan. The nature of our partnership has evolved from mere buyer and seller relations to participation in upstream and downstream projects, joint ventures in refineries and building of strategic oil reserves. But we can do more,” Bhattacharyya said.

He also said the movement towards alternative energy sources is leading to a new partnership in renewables.

“Collaboration in solar and other renewables, where efficient technologies are being developed, will give a more rounded context to energy security for both sides in the long run,” he said.

Calling the economic engagement between the two sides as the most vibrant aspect of the growing ties, he said there is “tremendous potential” to expand it further.

“Two-way investments can increase significantly, with sovereign wealth funds and portfolio investments from the Gulf region and Indian corporate investments playing a leading role,” he said.

“Similarly, diversification of the trade basket beyond hydrocarbons, to include engineering goods, gems and jewellery, precious metals, food products, textiles and chemicals in our exports and new products in our imports can give impetus to our trade relations,” Bhattacharyya added.