Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna, Minister of Foreign Trade of the United Arab Emirates,
My colleague Ministers from Arab countries,
His Excellency, Ambassador Ahmed bin Heili, Deputy Secretary General, League of Arab States,
Mr. Mohammed Al Alromaithy, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry,
Ms. Naina Lal Kidwai, Senior Vice President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry,
Mr. Adnan Kassar, President, General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture,
Mr. Hamdi Al Tabbah, Chairman of the Federation of Arab Businessmen,
Participating industry and business leaders from India and the Arab world, Ambassadors, other representatives and distinguished guests
It is a great pleasure for me to be present at this important and prestigious event, a meeting of friends from India and the Arab world and to sit, discuss and contribute towards mutual development of the people of the whole region through further strengthening of trade and investment opportunities.
The bedrock of India-Arab relations is embedded in antiquity, with evidence of historic, cultural and civilizational ties binding our regions dating back to the early years of recorded history. Legends abound with the adventures of Indian and Arab seafarers in times prior to our emergence as nation states. There is evidence of trade links between the Harappan civilization in India and that of Dilmun in the Gulf. Indian and Arab traders succeeded in building trade and commercial linkages between the two regions which have grown from strength to strength.
It was with the intention to further add momentum to the India-Arab relationship that the Government of India and the League of Arab States established this forum in 2008 to identify the sectors which need investment for development. Through the two editions held in 2008 and 2010 at New Delhi, with the active participation of government and business leaders, trading communities and financial sectors, several projects have already been established. Trade between India and the Arab world, which stood at US$114 billion in 2008-09, has steadily increased to reach US$144 billion in 2010-11. Of this, India-UAE trade alone accounts for US$67 billion, i.e. more than 46%, and it is, therefore, quite appropriate that Abu Dhabi is host to the third edition of this prestigious conference. I thank the Government of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs for this gesture and for his gracious and generous hospitality.
Government of India has always extended the benefits it had achieved through skill and knowledge development to Arab countries through its programme of educational scholarships, manpower training, transfer of technology etc. It has established several development projects in the area of small and medium enterprises. Government of India has also extended concessional financial assistance and grants for utilization for execution of industrial projects.
India is, as you are aware, one of the fastest growing major economies of the world. Despite the adverse international environment, India has managed to maintain a growth rate of over 7% per annum. We are confident that the strong fundamentals of its economy will help India return to a sustained growth path of about 8-10% per annum in the coming years on account of the following reasons:
• We have robust economic indicators including high domestic saving rate; increasing direct and indirect tax revenues; high agricultural growth; a strong manufacturing base and a booming service sector spearheaded by the information and communication technology sector.
• India has a very young population and over half of the working population is in its twenties.
• Over the past few years, we have invested heavily in education, health and agriculture to give a new deal to rural India. Our rural markets are now booming and the middle class is growing rapidly.
• India is poised to continue to be a frontline player in the global knowledge economy.
• We have very ambitious plans for the development of our infrastructure. We are planning to secure investment of almost $ 1 trillion in the next 5 years in new projects in highways, power plants, mass transport systems, ports and airports. This will be achieved through both public and private investment and Public-Private Partnerships.
• We are determined to pursue a strategy of green growth. We are committed to increasing energy efficiency and the share of renewables, including solar and nuclear power, in our energy mix.
This makes India one the most attractive destinations for foreign direct investments. India invites our longstanding friends from the Arab world to participate in India’s growth story which would be mutually beneficial.
The Arab world has been home to millions of Indians, who have been earning a living and, at the same time, contributing their share through hard work and dedication in developing the respective economies. This is a fine example of mutual growth. We see here business leaders from India who have succeeded in establishing their presence in the Arab world over several decades and who have acted as goodwill envoys between India and the Arab countries. I wish them all well and say India is proud of their achievements, which could be emulated by others. The Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry have made this congregation of Indian and Arab business leaders possible and I must congratulate them for the success of this prestigious event.
In this day of an inter-dependent world, no country can remain unaffected by a crisis in another part of the world, as has been witnessed in the last few years by the global economic downturn. This is true for India as well as the Arab world.
It would be a remiss if I do not mention the recent winds of change which swept through several Arab countries. Continued peace and stability in the region is of interest to all of us. We support addressing of all issues through peaceful dialogue and negotiations with countries being free to determine their own pathways to national development.
Coming back to the Conference, the focus this year is on investment projects which could be identified in the development of Small and Medium Enterprises; infrastructure facilities such as rail, road, airport, ports, power, water etc.; real estate business; healthcare; tourism; transportation; education & human resource development; IT & IT-enabled services; chemicals & petrochemicals; minerals and metals; oil and gas. There is a tremendous need for development of these sectors both in India, with its vast population to cater to and the Arab world.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we shall have the pleasure of listening to experts from the above fields during the different sessions today and tomorrow and there will be opportunities for business delegations and project companies to interact and identity future projects.
I take this opportunity to wish all success to the participants of this Conference. I am sure India and the Arab world would find the Conference of immense value in devising ways and means to ensure a better tomorrow for our peoples.
May 22, 2012