In its endeavour to continue strengthening ties with the Gulf countries, India has pushed for a Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Calling the Gulf nations an “extended part of our neighbourhood”, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj continued to cement ties with the region, by holding talks with her Gulf counterparts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.
Ms Swaraj pressed for early finalisation of the India-GCC Free Trade Agreement and operationalising the India-GCC Framework Agreement. Foreign ministers of Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Oman along with GCC Secretary General Rashid Al Zayani attended the 9th ministerial-level meeting and Ms Swaraj invited the GCC nations to participate in the ‘Make in India’ campaign, especially in the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor.
Emphasising on turning the energy sector relationship into a mutually beneficial investment partnership from the existing buyer-seller relationship. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had a successful visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in August, upgraded the relationship with UAE.
UAE is the largest trading partner for India among the Gulf countries. The Gulf region is home to nearly a 7 million strong Indian diaspora. As a region, the GCC is India’s largest trading partner with USD 137.7 billion trade in 2014-15. Nearly 50 per cent of India’s oil and gas comes from the GCC countries.
India, which is the fastest growing economy in the world and the third largest economy in Asia, is energy starved. To meet its growing demand for energy, India has been getting into trade agreements with energy rich countries. A FTA with GCC countries would further cement the partnership with Gulf countries and would also help in India working with these countries on other global issues such as combating terrorism. India and UAE have decided to cooperate in many areas pertaining to security, which has brought the two countries closer.
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