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Monthly digest of official Indian statements on the Middle East

Bilateral Issues


1. Visit of MOS Dr. Shashi Tharoor to Bahrain, 6 October 2009
Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs of the Republic of India, paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain on 4-5 October 2009. Dr. Shashi Tharoor was received by H.H. Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain 5th October, 2009. The Prime Minister reiterated that both countries enjoy relations deep-rooted in history and that Bahrain recognises India’s growing importance. The Indian expatriates working in Bahrain are an integral part of Bahrain. Dr. Shashi Tharoor thanked the Prime Minister for being host to hundreds of thousands of Indian expatriates working here and stated that in addition to existing elements of bilateral relations, both sides need to work towards strengthening the relations by enhancing trade and investment.

MOS held discussions with Foreign Minister of the Kingdom, H.E. Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa, on 4th October, 2009. During the bilateral discussions Bahrain position that, India’s Permanent Membership in the UNSC would be a stabilising influence in the whole region was reiterated. It would also support India’s candidature for a Non-Permanent seat in the UNSC for 2011-12. India committed its support for Bahrain’s candidature for a Non-Permanent Seat in the UNSC in 2026-27.
It was agreed that both sides would work for realising the visit of H.M. King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa to India at the earliest possible mutually convenient dates. It was also agreed to work towards enhancing the pace of negotiations for concluding Indo-GCC Free Trade Agreement. The existing mechanisms of Foreign Office Consultations as well as Joint Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation will be activated at the earliest.

Dr. Shashi Tharoor was also received by H.E. Mr. Hasan Abdullah Fakhro, Minister of Industry and Commerce, H.E. Dr. Majeed Al Alawi, Minister of Labour, H.E. Dr. Fatima Al Balooshi, Minister of Social Development and H.E. Dr. Nizar Al Baharna, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and discussed various issues of mutual interest.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,


2. Exercise Eastern Bridge update: IAF pilots fly unhindered over Oman sky, 25 October

Far removed is the terrain at Oman that IAF pilots of ‘Flaming Arrows’ and ‘Cobras’, the two Jaguar Squadrons, normally fly around their airbase - Gorakhpur, in India. Poor visibility, birds, obstructions and other restrictions usually make flying pretty much daunting. But for Jaguar pilots, low- flying remains raison d’être of their lethality.

At Oman, the local flying area around Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) Thumrait airbase is a terrain of a flatbed desert with hardened surface with unlimited visibility. Birds, if sighted, would normally be a welcome sight here unlike elsewhere, but is rarely encountered by the pilots.

All sixteen IAF pilots participating in exercise ‘Eastern Bridge’ with RAFO completed their local familiarization sorties ahead of the tactical part of the air exercise. To sum up, their low-flying experience at the very start of the exercise was simply, as most put it -exhilarating. Flying 500 feet above ground level seemed like flying almost mid-level felt some pilots, having done unhindered low -flying.

IAF pilots usually have their desert-flying experience around Jaisalmer and other airbases in Rajasthan. In many ways, the flying environment at Oman is not too different. But visibility is certainly markedly superior here felt the IAF pilots. However, at Oman the landscape changes rapidly from small mountains in the north, to flat terrain around Thumrait that changes over to coastal landscape in the south near Salalah, about 65 kilometres south of Thumrait.
The sprawling flying infrastructure at RAFO Thumrait also impressed the IAF contingent. “It has just been three weeks since we got the runway resurfaced before your arrival,” informed a senior RAFO officer, reinforcing their commitment to the first-ever joint air exercise with IAF. Flight safety, however, remains paramount for both sides.

Thumrait is base to the only two RAFO Jaguar squadrons. RAFO pilots periodically visit the IAF airbase at Gorakhpur in India for simulator training and are familiar with some of their Indian counterparts. The camaraderie between the IAF- RAFO pilots in the crew room is all too palpable with both sides keen to switch over to their professional excellence in the air in the remaining days of Ex- Eastern Bridge.

Source: Ministry of Defence Press Release, PIB, New Delhi,

3. Indian Ambassador, IAF Observer and Commander RAFO visit IAF contingent at Oman, 28 October

Ambassador of India at Oman, Mr. Anil Wadhwa and senior Indian Air Force (IAF) Observer, Air Vice Marshal Ramesh Rai, visited the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO), Thumrait airbase in Oman, on Tuesday (27 October 2009). Earlier, Commander RAFO, Air Vice Marshal Yahya bin Rasheed Al-Juma, visited and interacted with the IAF team here at Oman.

The high-profile visits reinforce the commitment by both countries towards fostering defence cooperation and coincide with the ongoing joint air exercise ‘Eastern Bridge’, between the two air forces at Oman from Oct 22-29.

On the penultimate day, Exercise Eastern Bridge peaked with IAF and RAFO Jaguars mounting several low-level, two and four-aircraft strike missions, culminating with pounding of the nearby ‘Aqzail’ air-to-ground range with accurate intensity of practice bombs. The marksmanship is brilliant with pilots on both sides scoring near-hundred percent direct hits on multiple targets in every mission.

With F-16s having joined-up for integrated missions, both in offensive and defensive roles, missions in Exercise Eastern Bridge are at par with any of the complex scenarios that air forces world over simulate.

Ex- Eastern Bridge - between IAF and RAFO is the first air exercise between the two air forces. But Indo-Omani affiliations that began essentially with trade historically through the sea route, also have a military backdrop.

Till India became independent, military and economic support to the Sultanate of Oman was provided by the British from India. Oman’s complete requirement of arms and ammunition as well as all military necessities were supplied from Indian ordinance factories, free of cost.

Indo-Omani military relations were again revived when a protocol agreement was signed in 1972, leading to a three-year deputation of Indian Navy personnel to man Oman’s Navy in Apr 1973.

The office of the Indian Defence Advisor in Muscat began functioning in 1989. The last decade has seen an increase of military relations between India and Oman, to the extent that Oman positioned their own Defence Attaché at New Delhi in Sep 2002.

IAF-RAFO defence cooperation was initiated in 2006 and has increased substantially in the current year. With Oman being a priority-one country on the IAF priority list for defence cooperation; in the West Asian region, air staff level talks are presently ongoing only with RAFO and Israel.

Presently a two-tier arrangement for defence cooperation – joint military cooperation committee (JMCC) and air force-to-air force staff talks (AFST) exists with Oman.
Three rounds of JMCC and AFST have so far been undertaken between India and Oman.

Source: Ministry of Defence Press release, PIB, New Delhi,

4. Eastern Bridge concludes successfully, IAF team returns to India, 30 October

Exercise Eastern Bridge – the first joint air exercise between Indian Air Force (IAF) and Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) concluded on Thursday, successfully. The exercise was held from Oct 22-29, at RAFO’s Thumrait airbase in Oman.

All six IAF Jaguars that participated in the exercise landed safely at Jamnagar on Thursday. In a rare first, six fighters refuelled from a single IL-78 MKI mid-air refueller during their overseas flight. The IL-76 carrying the remaining team members arrived at Gorakhpur via Jamnagar close to midnight on Thursday. The Jaguars also returned to their parent airbase Gorakhpur, today.

Before conclusion of the exercise, Chief of Staff of the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Ahmed Harith Nasser visited the IAF delegation and interacted with the IAF team. His visit as the Head of the Sultan’s armed forces outlines the great importance and honour Oman extended to the visiting Indian delegation. He expressed great satisfaction with the conduct of the exercise.

RAFO Thumrait Commander, Air Commodore Mattar Al Obaidani in his closing address at the exercise debrief, praised the professional conduct of the IAF contingent. “You have really set an example for our youngsters and have shown how disciplined and professional you are,” he said.

“One of the objectives was to win friends, a friendship that was lost in a long time,” he said, apprising that it was for the first time that RAFO had looked east for an exercise. So far the only exercises RAFO have been participating are with the GCC countries and west. He conveyed that RAFO was keenly looking forward to bringing aircraft their aircraft to India in near future.

IAF Team Leader Group Captain VV Dedgaonkar also thanked RAFO for all the facilitations on behalf of the Indian contingent. Referring to consolidation of IAF-RAFO ties, he said, “Bridges are not built by machines but by each one of us and will be only consolidated in the future.”

Exercise Eastern Bridge was a platform for the airmen on both sides to show their professional mettle and learn from each other. Unlike IAF, seldom do RAFO pilots get an opportunity to change aircraft type once they begin to fly operationally. The exercise provided them the chance to assimilate some experience from their IAF counterparts who have flown both western and Russian aircraft.

Source: Ministry of Defence press release, PIB, New Delhi,


5. Anand Sharma calls for building a comprehensive economic partnership between India and Egypt, Cairo, 29 October

Shri Anand Sharma, Union Minister for Commerce and Industry has called upon the business leaders of India and Egypt to work for building a Comprehensive Economic Partnership between the two countries. He was addressing a meeting of the Business Forum organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry in Cairo today. He is currently visiting Cairo at the invitation of Mr. Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Minister for Trade and Industry of the Arab Republic of Egypt, to participate in an Informal African WTO Trade Ministerial Brainstorming Session on “Consolidating the Development Dimension”. Prior to this in September 2009, an Informal Ministerial Meeting on the Doha Round of WTO was organized in New Delhi, which was attended by Minister Rachid.

Earlier Shri Anand Sharma had a meeting with Dr. Ahmed Nazif, Prime Minister of Egypt this morning, where wide ranging bilateral issues as well as global developments of mutual interest were discussed. With links going back to ancient time, India and Egypt have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations. In modern times, a firm foundation was laid by great leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and President Nasser. Bilateral relations are marked by mutual respect, goodwill and understanding and constitute a factor of peace and stability in international relations. Shri Anand Sharma also briefed the Prime Minister Dr Nazif about the recent developments in India that have taken place after the visit of Shri Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt to India in November 2008 and after the visit of Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India to Egypt in July 2009 for attending the XV Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. Egyptian Prime Minister has invited India to set up joint ventures with Egyptian companies in an exclusive India investment zone that he is proposing to establish. He also suggested that both countries should explore possibilities of joint ventures in third countries. In addition, the Prime Minister mentioned that he is personally committed to taking the economic engagement with India to a higher level.

Shri Sharma also participated in the Informal African WTO Trade Ministerial Brainstorming session on “Consolidating the Development Dimension”, which was attended by 22 other Ministers and Director General of WTO. The meeting focused on finding the ways and means of a closer cooperation among the participating countries for adopting a common approach to the major issues coming up for discussions in WTO. It was felt that cooperation was the only way of protecting the interest of the developing countries in a forum like WTO.

After the WTO Brainstorming Session, Shri Anand Sharma had a fruitful bilateral meeting with Mr. Rachid and discussed the ways of boosting the economic and commercial relations. Bilateral trade between India and Egypt has been growing steadily till the financial year 2007-08, when it crossed US$ 3 billion for the first time. Despite being a net foreign investment recipient country, India has invested significantly in Egypt. In Egypt, there are 40 projects in diverse areas like chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, garments etc. that have received of a total of US $ 750 million Indian investment. Additionally, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) have met investment commitments of US$ 300 to 500 million in the oil exploration sector. Both the Ministers agreed that the existing close economic relations within the two countries need to be taken to a higher level by going beyond the trade figures alone. At the end of the talks, the two Ministers signed a Joint Action Plan for cooperation between the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Indian Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). MSMEs play an important role in the economies of both the countries by providing employment for millions of people and by working as a vital entrepreneurial training ground for the small entrepreneurs not possessing sufficient financial resources to start a large business house. A Joint Committee will be constituted soon for implementation of the Action Plan.

A 16-member delegation from Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) has also accompanied Shri Anand Sharma. CII delegation called on Dr. Mahmoud Safwat Mohyee El-Din, Minister for Investment of Egypt and had very productive meetings at Egyptian Ministry of Electricity & Energy, Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) and Egyptian Businessmen Association (EBA). The other engagement of the CII delegation was a Business Forum followed by a Networking Dinner organized by the Egyptian Ministry of Trade & Industry. The Business forum was also attended by Shri Anand Sharma who called upon the business leaders of two countries to work for building a comprehensive economic partnership between the two countries.

Source: Ministry of commerce and industry, PIB Press release,

Multilateral Issues


6. Address by Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs on “Expanding Horizons of Cooperation between India and the GCC” at the Bahrain-India Society, Bahrain, 4th October 2009

Excellencies, distinguished colleagues and friends,

I am extremely happy and indeed delighted to be with you here today addressing this august gathering. I am particularly honoured by the presence of H.E Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain here today. I also immensely satisfied to see amidst you many of my friends and colleagues, people I have come to know and admire over the years. As many of you know, Bahrain is not new to me as I have been here earlier on couple of occasions and always enjoyed my interactions. However, this is my first visit to a Gulf country in my new capacity as Minister of State for External Affairs of the Government of India. As such this undoubtedly is a special occasion for me.

2. I start by expressing my gratitude to His Excellency Mr. Abdulnabi Alsho’ala, Chairman of Bahrain-India Society, Advisor to the Prime Minister and former Minister of Labour for the Govt of Bahrain for his support and leadership towards building Bahrain-India relations. He is one of our great friends and we appreciate and admire his contribution. I also take this opportunity to appreciate the efforts of Bahrain-India Society which has acted as a pillar of strength in the relations between our two countries and our peoples.

3. I have been asked to talk on the expanding horizons of cooperation between India and the GCC. Let me start by saying that this is a subject which I have come to view as one which holds the greatest potential for development as we already possesses a strong base to work with. It is also area of work which is close to my heart and I propose to dedicate my energies to see it prosper and grow.

4. India’s ties with the Gulf region go back 5000 years. Archaeological excavations across the region regularly yield evidence of the Gulf’s intimate maritime and commercial links with our civilizations in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. There is evidence of relations between the Harappan civilisation and the Dilmun society. These ties, which have continued and flourished over centuries, are a testimony to the proximity of the Gulf region to India not only in geographical terms but also in a civilizational and cultural sense. For several hundred years, India provided foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery to the Gulf and, in turn, imported dates and pearls. Indian traders have lived in the Gulf for several centuries, just as Gulf merchants made Kerala and Mumbai their home.

5. Over the last 40 years India has been in the forefront in providing human resources for the development of the Gulf countries: today, Indians are the number one expatriate community in every member country of the GCC. The presence of Indian professionals across the Gulf is also increasing. This is a very healthy and encouraging development that adds a new dimension to our relationship. I am aware that this trend is also very strong in Bahrain with some 300,000 Indians and the presence of large number of Indian professionals in Bahrain.

6. I am convinced about the oneness of our peoples and anything but close and friendly relations would be an aberration. The Gulf region has a special place in India’s external interactions as well as our internal dynamics. For India, the Gulf region is an important source of energy and is home to over 4.5 million Indians. The Gulf’s rich resources and the growing demands of India’s rapidly expanding economy make us partners for our mutual benefit. The Gulf region is a major trading partner and the emergence of Bahrain and the GCC countries as a major investment partner of India is but a matter of time. I deeply appreciate the manner in which Bahrain has emerged as a financial hub and nerve centre. Bahrain has great potential to partner financial cooperation with Indian financial institutions and we should strive towards building more such linkages.

7. I believe most experts agree that India has faced one of the greatest economic challenges of recent times, namely the global financial crisis, admirably. Although our economy also did face considerable stress, it was able to withstand the recessionary trends and emerged as one of the few bright spots in the generally bleak world economic landscape of the past one and half year or so. This reflects the resilience of the Indian economy and its strengths. It is a widely held belief that the Indian economy in the post-financial crisis years will be better placed to accelerate its growth. Our average growth rate during 2004 to 2008 remained 8 per capita plus. Even in the midst of the financial crisis India attained a nearly 6 per capita growth rate and I believe that in the next fiscal year we will again enter a near 8 per capita growth rate. The principal challenge before us is to ensure that we re-attain a high economic growth rate every year for the coming two decades to bring prosperity to the masses at large. Two most important pre-requisites in this regard for us are energy security and development of infrastructure. We also need to expand electric-power production 6 to 7 times between now and 2032 to energize our growth requirements. These challenges call for a robust national effort to obtain the resources required to meet these targets. It is here we see the foundation of India’s new terms of engagement with the Gulf region.

8. As a result of high oil prices and prudent fiscal policies, the countries of the GCC have generated a very high level of investible surpluses. India is held as one of the safest investment destinations in the world, giving some of the best returns on investments. I am happy to note that GCC countries see India as an important investment partner and destination. I personally believe that investments will constitute a new, abiding and mutually beneficial framework for the future growth of our ties.

9. For several years, India has obtained the bulk of its crude requirements from the Gulf. In view of the Gulf’s vast oil reserves and our geographical proximity, I am confident that India and the Gulf region will remain long-term partners in the energy sector. We would like to transform the present buyer-seller relationship into something more substantial and enduring. We would like to encourage mutual investments in each other’s energy sectors. Indian companies could participate in exploration and development projects in the Gulf while companies from GCC countries could invest in India’s down-stream and petro-chemicals sector. An early meeting of our officials and entrepreneurs to discuss cooperation in this sector is desirable.

10. Trade in goods and services between India and the Gulf is expanding rapidly and it exceeded US$ 87 billion in the last fiscal year. The export of foodstuff constitutes an important part of India’s export basket. Today, India is a reliable supplier of food products to the Gulf countries. I thus see India’s requirement for energy security and that of the GCC countries for food security, as opportunities that can work to mutual advantage. We could even think of third country agro-projects where Indian expertise in agriculture could be used to ensure food security for GCC countries.

11. To achieve these goals and to enhance our economic and commercial relationship we now have in place the necessary institutional arrangements. I would like, in this regard, to refer to the India-GCC Framework Agreement for enhancing and developing economic cooperation which was signed in 2004. To liberalize trade relations and to hold discussions on a Free Trade Agreement between India and GCC countries, we have established negotiating teams that have held three rounds of discussions so far. A Free Trade Agreement between us would complement our ongoing and rapidly expanding bilateral economic engagement with individual member countries of the GCC.

12. The India-GCC industrial conference has been playing an important role in strengthening the economic relationship between us. The 3rd India-GCC industrial conference held in 2007 has recommended that an India-GCC FTA should be concluded expeditiously. We are contributing our part to see it materialise and I am happy to see that the 4th India-GCC Industrial Conference will take place in February 2010 in Riyadh, which will further pave the way for our growing cooperation. In a somewhat larger context we shall be organising the 2nd Indo-Arab Investment Conclave in February 2010 in New Delhi and I hope you all will find it convenient to attend and benefit from the cross sectoral mutually beneficial investment opportunities on offer there.

13. We consider that an exchange of visits at the political level is very important to strengthen our relationship with GCC countries. In this regard, I am happy to note that the exchange of visits at the highest level has increased between India and GCC countries. India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh visited Qatar and Oman in November 2008 and our Vice President Mr M. Hamid Ansari visited Kuwait, reflecting the close relations between India and the Gulf region. We also have had the honour of receiving a large number of dignitaries from the Gulf region in recent years. These visits have further strengthened our relationship and have led to very fruitful discussions.

14. From the strategic point of view, India and the GCC share the need for stability and security in the region. The common political and security concerns of India and the GCC translate into efforts for peace, security and stability in the Gulf region and South Asia. The emerging common threat perceptions create further opportunities for GCC-India cooperation in the future. The anti-piracy drive in the region is symbolic of an extensive and functional multilateral cooperation. The critical space for India to play an increasingly pro-active role is widening. It is in this context that India and the GCC States can create many opportunities for mutual benefit.

15. There are newer opportunities and potentials which need to be built upon between the Gulf region and India. Although GCC-India cooperation has expanded, I have a personal conviction that this is not enough. We have to work jointly to expand our cooperation further. Our potential to cooperate is infinite - just like the horizon we can see from your country’s beautiful shores. For this framework we are thankful to Bahrain for its contribution and I hope that it will continue in the future. Bahrain has been one of our greatest supporters and well- wishers in the GCC and India appreciates and honours this support.

Thank you.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,

7. Address by MoS Dr Shashi Tharoor at Abu Dhabi on “Doing Business with India – The Next Wave” 7 October

Your Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan,
Your Excellencies,
Respected guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address this distinguished gathering representing leaders of business and finance from the UAE. Your presence here confirms your deep interest in expanding your business ties with India. HH Sheikh Nahyan has made such an outstanding case for doing business with India that I feel almost anything I can say will only be superfluous. Nevertheless, I shall inflict a few thoughts on you to kick start our discussion.

2. India has been a vibrant presence in the political, economic and cultural evolution of the Gulf. For thousands of years, our ancestors sailed the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean and exchanged goods, ideas and experiences. This interaction over several millennia has left an abiding mark on our civilizational ethos, giving our peoples a similarity of perceptions and cultural mores.

3. This engagement between India and the Gulf has had such sustained resonance primarily because our engagements have been continuously refreshed and revitalized by meeting new needs and requirements. For several centuries, India provided the necessities, comforts and luxuries needed by the people of the Gulf and occasionally re-exported by them to other markets. Indian foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery constituted the main exports from our country, while we imported huge quantities of dates and pearls from here.

4. Later, in recent years, when this region took up the massive expansion of its infrastructure and welfare institutions, India came forward with its human resources, initially blue-collar but increasingly progressing to professionals. Today, there is no aspect of the UAE economy which has not been touched by an Indian contribution.

5. Even as the Gulf economies have expanded to meet modern-day needs, India too has gone through remarkable changes. Perhaps change in India has been less dramatic as compared to the Gulf, which is natural given our size and the number of our people. Nevertheless, India, over the last sixty years, has changed beyond recognition, so that today every aspect of our national life is different from what it was at the dawn of independence. The most remarkable change has been in the lives of the poorest of our people. We are now today able to feed all our people thanks to the three revolutions, that is, the green revolution for food production, the white revolution in dairy products and the blue revolution in milk. We are striving to ensure that our peoples have access to the best possible education and the opportunity to live a life of dignity and achievement. We recognize that we still have a long way to go, but we remain confident that we are on the right path.

6. India’s success has been noted by a number of international economic commentators at least some of whom have forecast an extraordinary future for the Indian story. Thus, Goldman Sachs, in its report of October 2003, stated that:
* India’s growth will exceed 5 per capita per year over the next 30-50 years, making India the world’s third largest economy (after USA and China) in 30 years.
* In GDP terms, India will overtake Italy in 2015, France in 2020, Germany in 2025 and Japan in 2030.
Three years later, in January 2007, it painted an even more rosy a picture when it stated:
* India can sustain output growth of about 8 per capita per year till 2020, thus overtaking G-8 countries faster than envisaged earlier.
* India could surpass the USA before 2050, thus becoming the world’s second largest economy.

7. Of course the global economy has witnessed a course correction in the last 12 months, but the reasons for Goldman’s optimism have not been altered. [Minister made remarks about the mobile telephone revolution in India touching the lives of the ordinary people of India].

8. I have spoken of significant changes in our national life but what has not changed are certain principles which have given an enduring resilience to our body politic. These are our democratic and secular order and our commitment to social and economic justice, which are enshrined in our Constitution. Thus, the social and economic transformation in India has taken place within the framework of our abiding commitment to these core values, which has enabled us to weather some of the most serious difficulties, political and economic, that have periodically challenged our national fibre and even tested our nationhood.

9. I would like to say a few words about how we have coped with the current global economic crisis. It is a matter of some satisfaction that India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew around 6 per capita in every quarter of what has been described by economists as “the most difficult 12-months in recent history”. As against this, most countries in the world suffered falls in growth rates in at least one quarter.

10. Many reasons have been attributed for this success. First, our banks and financial institutions were not tempted to buy mortgage-supported securities and credit default swaps that, in many cases became toxic and ruined several Western financial institutions. Second, though our merchandise exports did register declines of about 30 per cent, our services exports continued to do well.

11. Third, remittances from our overseas Indian community remained robust, reaching $46.4 billion in 2008-09, the bulk of which came from the Indian expatriate community in the Gulf. And, fourth, foreign direct investment has remained substantial, reaching $27.3 billion in 2008-09 in spite of the global financial crisis.

12. Besides these developments, our financial authorities have pursued policies providing for lower interest rates, expanded credit and lower excise duties, all of which have served to boost economic activity. And some 80 per capita of our GDP does not come from the external sector but from producing goods and services for Indians in India.

13. It may be recalled that, at the commencement of the financial crisis in September 2008, foreign investors withdrew $12 billion from our stock markets; they are now flooding back to our exchanges, reaching a rate of $ one billion per week in May 2009.

14. It is in this economic scenario that I now seek a more substantial participation from the Gulf in the extraordinary adventure that is our economic and social development in what the sub-title of this Executive Dinner describes as the “Next Wave”.

15. Now, in this “Next Wave” we plan to carry our nation forward on the basis of massive investments in our infrastructure, energy and industrial sectors, along with investments in our human resources through up-gradation of our institutions of primary education and higher learning. We also propose to increase our electric power production by 700 per capita by 2043. It is in this context that India extends to all of you here a hand of partnership, and invites you to participate with us in the new phase of development and prosperity on which we have embarked.

16. We have taken a few practical steps to improve the environment for investments: - a one stop shop; greater involvement of business associations such as CII, ASSOCHAM and FICCI; formation of the Investment Advisory Council to address the problems faced by investors. I would also advice investors to explore the Joint Venture (JV) route to achieve success in India. Further, Indian states compete with each other to attract investments. Foreign investors should be conscious of the differences between states and incentives offered by different states to attract investments.

17. The Gulf region and the UAE are rich in financial resources and in technological capabilities and expertise that have emerged over the last 40 years of extraordinary all-round development. The UAE as a country and the GCC as an economic grouping are already India’s number one trade partners. India’s trade with UAE touched US$ 44.5 billion last year and with the GCC it was US$ 87 bn. We now see the UAE and the GCC as our premier investment partners as well, so that we can, through our joint effort, build up the projects and institutions that will transform the face of India. I see this as an “extraordinary adventure” since, before our eyes, we will see the most significant transformations in our geographical landscape and in the quality of life of our people.

18. Given the long history of our fruitful interaction, this new engagement to which I have invited you is but one more step in the mutually beneficial relationship that has bonded our people over several millennia, but it promises, in its implications, to be more extraordinarily transformational and fruitful than any interaction that has gone before.
Thank you.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,

Specific Issue


8. Recent Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Meeting in New York, 3 October
It is regrettable that the OIC has commented on India’s internal affairs. We condemn and reject this. Inherent in OIC’s statements and actions on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is a complete inability to understand India’s position. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and it is our firm position that the OIC has no locus standi in matters concerning India’s internal affairs.

Source: Press Release, Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,


9. Speech by External Affairs Minister for the Inaugural Hajj Flight at New Delhi, 20 October 2009
Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi Smt. Sheila Dixit,
Hon’ble Shri Raj Kumar Chauhan, Hon’ble Minister of Revenue and Hajj
Affairs, Delhi Government
Hon’ble Shri Harun Yusuf, Minister of Food and Civil Supplies, Delhi
Government and Acting Chairman of Delhi State Hajj Committee,
Shri N. Ravi, Secretary (East),
H.E. The Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to India,
Senior Officials,
Brothers and sisters,

On behalf of the Government of India and on my own behalf, it gives me great pleasure to greet and convey my best wishes to all the pilgrims who are embarking upon the pious journey for performing the Hajj. The time for accomplishment of your life-cherished dream of performing Hajj and for you to be able to pay respects at the Holy Mosque has arrived. Hajj is a precious gift from the Almighty Allah and is a privilege for which a believer yearns throughout his life. Undoubtedly, all of you are fortunate whom the Almighty Allah has accepted as his guest and permitted you to visit His House.

2. Government of India attaches the highest importance to the fulfilment of the religious obligations of the Indian Muslims and pays close attention to the arrangements made in India and Saudi Arabia to facilitate their sacred pilgrimage. Ministry of External Affairs, in coordination with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, our Missions in Saudi Arabia, other agencies of the Government of India, the Hajj Committee of India and the State Hajj Committees have been working to take all necessary measures to provide and improve facilities and services for the pilgrims in Jeddah, Makkah Mukarramah, Medina Munawwarah and Mina/Arafat areas.

3. With this aim, senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Air India along with Members of Hajj Committee of India, have visited Saudi Arabia from time to time this year and had held extensive discussions with Saudi Arabian authorities and Saudi Arabian Airlines about various issues concerning our pilgrims.

4. During Hajj 2009, about 115,000 pilgrims going through Hajj Committee of India are being transported through Saudi Arabian Airlines and Air India through 19 embarkation points. I am happy to note that Mangalore and Ranchi have been added as new embarkation points from this year, in addition to the existing embarkation points. In addition, 45000 pilgrims will be going through the private tour operators.

5. A significant aspect of the arrangements for Indian pilgrims for Hajj 2009 is the enhanced use of Information Technology through total computerization of pilgrim location and movement including all those who are going through private tour operators. Relatives sitting in India can now find out, through the website of the Hajj Committee of India (, the whereabouts of their relatives performing Hajj and can communicate with them during their stay in Saudi Arabia. I sincerely hope that all of you have attended the orientation/Training of pilgrims programme, which is very important to understand Hajj rituals and arrangements being made for the pilgrims. I am told that a copy of the Hajj Guide has also been made available to you by the Hajj Committee. The Hajj Guide gives a comprehensive description of the Hajj rituals and details about the arrangements made in Saudi Arabia.

6. The coverage of Cash Loss and Baggage Loss cases under Accident Compensation Scheme, which was introduced during Hajj 2004 continues and has been further expanded. Hajj Committee has also continued with the system of issuance of foreign exchange amount in Saudi Riyals in cash to the pilgrims at all the embarkation points in India itself.

7. As you are aware, this year we had some major challenges like the issue of international passport to all pilgrims and the bigger challenge of prevention of Swine Flu. We have taken adequate measures to address these issues. Our Medical Mission in Saudi Arabia has been fully geared up to address any health related requirement and will be working closely with the State health authorities.

8. Indian Embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General of India, Jeddah have been entrusted with the responsibility of the arrangements made for the Indian pilgrims in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In case of any difficulty during your stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the pilgrims are requested to approach the officials of the Indian Embassy/Indian Consulate who shall be available in Jeddah, Makkah Mukarramah, Medina Munawwarah and also at centres established at Mina/Arafat during the entire Hajj period. The Government of India has also deputed about 300 Khadimul Hujjaj and more than 600 administrative and medical staff to provide and ensure maximum comfort to our pilgrims.

9. Please remember you are the representatives of India and so carry the best wishes of Indians to your hosts and Saudi brothers and sisters. During this spiritual and religious journey of Hajj, I would urge you to kindly demonstrate exemplary patience, particularly at the rituals in Jamarat, to be careful about your own security and that of your companions in the huge congregation. From the time you leave for Hajj pilgrimage till the time you return to your home, you are on the holy path. Your patience and forbearance would definitely prove rewarding. I would also request you to pray for the welfare, peace and prosperity of our country.

10. Once again, on behalf of the Government of India and on my personal behalf, I offer my heartiest greetings to all of you and I extend my best wishes for a very successful Hajj. May Almighty Allah reward you with a perfectly accomplished Hajj. (Amen).
Thank you, Jai Hind.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,

10. Speech by MOS Shashi Tharoor at Kozhikode embarkation point for the Hajj flight, 29 October 2009
Hon’ble Chief Minister,
Hon’ble Chairman, Kerala State Hajj Committee,
Senior Officials and
Dear brothers and sisters,

As the Minister of State for External Affairs in charge of Hajj matters, it gives me great pleasure to greet and convey my best wishes to all of you who are undertaking the pious journey of performing the Hajj, and to pay respects at the Holy Mosque at Medina of Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him). Hajj is an incomparable and unparallel gift from Allah Almighty. Only the most fortunate of persons get the opportunity provided by the Almighty Allah to visit His Holy Abode.

2. The Government of India is fully committed to ensure that the best possible arrangements are put in place in India and Saudi Arabia for the comfort and well being of Indian pilgrims to facilitate their sacred pilgrimage. Ministry of External Affairs, in coordination with the Ministry of Civil Aviation, our Missions in Saudi Arabia, other agencies of the Government of India, the Hajj Committee of India and the State Hajj Committees have been working to take all necessary measures to provide and improve services for the pilgrims in Jeddah, Makkah Mukarramah, Medina Munawwarah and Mina/Arafat areas.

3. It is a matter of great pride for us that one of the largest contingents of Hajj pilgrims in the world goes from our country. This year around 160,000 pilgrims would visit Saudi Arabia for Hajj. Out of this 115,000 pilgrims are going through Hajj Committee of India and 45,000 Indian pilgrims would be performing Hajj through the private tour operators.

4. The Government has taken a number of decisions to streamline the functioning of Private Tour Operators so that they provide proper services and facilities for the pilgrims. It is a matter of satisfaction that over the years the Indian Private Tour Operators have been contributing significantly in providing necessary services to the Indian pilgrims. These pilgrims also benefit from the arrangements, for medical and general assistance, put in place by the Hajj Mission in Jeddah. As in the past year, Private Tour Operators would provide coverage under the Accident Compensation Scheme to pilgrims being taken by them.

5. I sincerely hope that all of you have attended the orientation/training programmes meant for pilgrims. These are very important to understand Hajj rituals and arrangements being made for the pilgrims. In case some of you have missed attending this training, please do take guidance about Hajj rituals from your fellow-beings. I am told that a copy of the Hajj Guide has also been made available to you by the Hajj Committee. The Hajj Guide gives a comprehensive description of the Hajj rituals and details about the arrangements made in Saudi Arabia.

6. I would like to assure you all that the Government’s objective is to bring about constant improvements and innovations in our Hajj Management, both in India as well in Saudi Arabia. Our Missions in Riyadh and Jeddah are fully geared up for the forthcoming Hajj and working hard to fulfil its mandate of serving the Hajjis and taking care of their needs and requirements during their stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In case of any difficulty during the stay in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the pilgrims may kindly approach the officers/officials of the Indian Embassy/Indian Consulate who shall be available in Jeddah, Makkah Mukarramah, Medina Munawwarah and also at centres established at Mina/Arafat during Hajj period. The Government of India is also deputing about 300 Khadimul Hujjaj and more than 500 administrative and medical staff to ensure maximum comfort to the Indian pilgrims.

7. The Government would continue to provide the necessary infrastructure for the efficient management of Hajj. The Government is also deputing sufficient number of doctors, paramedics and administrative staff to Jeddah to look after and assist the Indian pilgrims during their stay in Saudi Arabia. Sufficient medicines and other critical medical equipment would also be made available to our doctors for helping the Indian pilgrims. The Government has also made arrangements in India for polio, meningitis and influenza vaccinations for the pilgrims and arrangements for swine flu medicines are being made. From the time you leave for Hajj pilgrimage till the time you return to your home, you are on the path leading to Allah. Your patience and forbearance would definitely prove rewarding. I would also request you to pray for the welfare, peace and prosperity of our country.

8. Once again, on behalf of the Government of India and on my personal behalf, I offer my heartiest greetings to all of you and I extend my best wishes for a very successful Hajj. May Almighty Allah reward you with a perfectly accomplished Hajj (Amen).
Thank you, Jai Hind.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,


11. Increase in India’s contribution to UNRWA, 12 October 2009
It has been decided to increase India’s contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to $1 million. UNRWA is marking its 60th Anniversary this year and the enhanced contribution is in keeping with India’s consistent and principled support for the people of Palestine. Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. Shashi Tharoor has, in a letter to the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Ms. Karen AbuZayd, conveyed the decision regarding this enhanced contribution. In January 2009, in response to an UNRWA Flash Appeal, the Government of India had made a special assistance of $1 million for relief work in Gaza Strip.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi,


12. Address of the Hon’ble Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari at the Inauguration of the Second International Conference titled “Terrorism – National and International” organized by Jama Masjid United Forum at the Oberoi, New Delhi. 27 October 2009
...More or less every movement in the modern era had been labelled ‘terrorist’ by different parties – whether it was the Jewish Underground in Mandate Palestine, the ANC in South Africa or various Palestinian groups...

Source: Vice President's Secretariat, New Delhi,

Iranian Nuclear issue

13. Joint Communiqué of the Ninth Meeting of Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and  China at Bengaluru, 27 October 2009

16. The Ministers welcomed the recent talks between Iran and representatives of the P5+1 and the EU in Geneva and emphasised the need to continue efforts to achieve a political and diplomatic settlement of the Iran nuclear issue. They shared the view that Iran is entitled to the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and at the same time should fulfil its due international obligations. The Ministers emphasized that all possible efforts should be made to address the Iran nuclear issue by peaceful means through dialogue and negotiation and that the IAEA should play an important role in resolving outstanding issues.

Source: Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi
Anjani Kumar Singh is a Research Intern at Middle East Institute @ New Delhi

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND. Editor, MEI India Speaks:  P R Kumaraswamy