By Devika Bhattacharya: Gulf countries provide jobs and livelihood to millions of Indians and shore up the Indian economy through remittances. At a time when building closer relationship with the Middle-east is vital, these countries are also becoming increasingly competitive.
As such, the positive impression that these nations have of Indians, especially skilled workers from the south of India, may very well make all the difference in taking ties – from bilateral to strategic – to the next level, said experts at India Today Conclave South 2023.
“Gulf Arabs have a positive view of people from Kerala, of Indians,” said Venu Rajamony, Officer on Special Duty (External Cooperation) in the Kerala government.
Addressing the New bridges to the Gulf session at the Conclave, Rajamony said, “The Indian presence is valued much more than Pakistanis in Gulf countries. China can never be match India in people-to-people connect with Arabs.”
Dr Ausaf Sayeed, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (CPV & OIA), noted that despite the amicable terms between New Delhi and Gulf countries, challenges like developing trade and investment and forging close political relationships remain.
“The Gulf as a whole region is of extreme importance to us – in terms of trade and investment, energy, food security, maritime security and defence, and the vast diaspora,” said Sayeed.
The government is working on securing more investment in India from the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council nations and a Free-Trade Agreement is in the works, said Sayeed. “In a matter of few months or so, we should have discussions rolling with all GCC countries,” he stated.