PM's visit to Oman to open new vistas of cooperation

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (UNI) India and Oman have decided to take bilateral ties to new heights and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the Sultanate from Saturday would open new vistas of cooperation in information technology, energy and manufacturing sectors.

The Prime Minister's visit is crucial and it will take bilateral relations to the strategic level. ''National Security Advisor M K Narayanan visited Muscat early this week to give final touches to the agenda of talks that Dr Singh will have with Sultan Qaboos on bilateral, regional and international issues", Ambassador of Oman to India Humaid Al Maani said here today.

The Ambassador said the two countries are set to sign a cluster of Memoranda of Understanding(MOU) on various fields to give the required push to the existing ties. Bilateral trade is expanding rapidly and is expected to touch two billion dollars during the current financial year. The balance of trade is in favour of India.

Mr Humaid said Oman wants India to invest in Salalah Free Zone area, where companies are provided many incentives including tax benefits and 100 per cent ownership. The zone is strategically located on the equatorial trade route providing global connectivity.

Dr Singh was supposed to leave for Saudi Arabia, but his tour was cancelled as King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has to attend a meeting of leaders of 20 leading countries to discuss the current global financial crisis.

The Ambassador said Oman is keen to set up joint ventures with Indian companies in a number of sectors like agriculture, ertilisers, service sector and downstream industries, besides information technology. There are more than 100 Indian companies in Oman operating in various fields. Similarly, 30 Omani companies have invested in India.

The two countries have already set up a Joint Commission to explore new ways and means to give a fillip to bilateral trade and business.

Asked about the condition of Indian expatriates in the sultanate, he said there has been not a single complaint by them. Omani labour laws are good enough to protect their interests.

He said there are 500,000 Indian expatriates in Oman, the highest from any foreign country.

UNI SMA RP RN1521

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