MOU for India-Oman fund to be signed during PM visit

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Muscat, Nov 8 (UNI) India and Oman are likely to sign an MOU for a fund to create seed capital for infrastructure projects in both the countries during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Dr Singh arrives in Oman today to a red carpet welcome, accompanied by a high power delegation including Minister for Overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs E Ahamed, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan.

This is Dr Singh's first trip to the Gulf region that is home to some four million Non-Resident Indians.

Mr Vijay Singh, Secretary of the Ministry of Defence; Mr N Ravi, Secretary of the Foreign Ministry, V S Sampath, Secretary of Chemicals and Petro-chemicals, and Atul Chaturvedi, Secretary of Fertilisers, would also be part of the entourage.

The visit comes at a crucial time when the world is looking at the Gulf states afresh in the wake of the global financial crisis and India is planning to give more economic and strategic weight to its ties with the Gulf region.

Leaders of western countries have been visiting the region over the last couple of weeks seeking help to tide over the crisis.

The Times of Oman, quoting Mr Anil Wadhwa, India's Ambassador to the Sultanate, said India and Oman would sign three key pacts during the course of the visit.

The two sides are likely to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for creating the India-Oman Fund, he said.

The second is a manpower agreement between Oman's Ministry of Manpower and India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Oman is home to around 5,50,000 Indians.

The third agreement would be signed between the foreign service training institutes of the two countries.

Dr Singh would hold talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including energy security, economic ties and the international financial crisis.

A number of other issues would also come up for discussion. The proposed India-AGCC free trade agreement is also expected to come up for discussion.

In addition, they would also review the regional situation and the global financial crisis, Mr Wadhwa said.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to cross the 2 billion dollar mark by the end of this year. Ahead of the Prime Minister's visit, Oman had invited Indian investments, particularly in the newly-established 'Free Zones' which offer a number of privileges.

India and Oman are expected to soon launch a 100 million dollar joint investment company on equal partnership basis to facilitate cooperative projects in various sectors through investments.

''The potential is very high for expanding business cooperation,'' said Oman's Ambassador to India Humaid Al Maani in New Delhi yesterday.

This is the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Oman in a decade. The last Prime Minister to visit was Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1998.

The Indian government is leaving no stone unturned to make Dr Singh's three-day trip to Oman and Qatar a success.

UNI XC SKB KN1500

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