Monday, November 10, 2008
Speech by PM at the Indian Community Reception in Oman
“It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to meet all of you today.
You represent close to five hundred fifty thousand Indians in Oman, the largest expatriate group in the country. You are a vibrant and industrious community. You are a microcosm of the multicultural and multi-religious diversity of India.
Above all, you symbolize the contemporary face of the civilisational and historical links that have existed between India and Oman for centuries. Traders, merchants and numerous others have over centuries travelled the seas between India and Oman and forged new connections and new links between our peoples. Today you are employing your skills to build a prosperous Oman and a new life for yourselves and your families. Your achievements are a matter of pride for the people back home in India and I bring to you our greetings.
We are grateful for the welcome the Sultanate has given to our countrymen, and the trust and confidence that has been reposed in them. The Omanese leaders, His Majesty Sultan of Oman and His Highness the Deputy Prime Minister have expressed appreciation to me for your qualities of hard work, for your civic sense and for your discipline. India is truly proud of your achievements.
This is my first visit to Oman as Prime Minister. India enjoys exceptionally close and warm relations with Oman in all spheres of human activity. I have come to Oman to further strengthen these ties.
I have held excellent discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister His Highness Sayyid Fahd Mahmoud Al Said yesterday. I look forward to my audience with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said later today.
The Gulf region is an area of great importance to India. It is part of our extended neighbourhood, and home to five million Indians. It is the largest source of our energy supplies. We have active trade and investment interests. Piracy, criminal activities and terrorism on our seas and land threaten the Gulf countries and India as well.
There are many reasons for us to work closely together with Oman to ensure a stable and prosperous region.
India is undergoing a major transformation. Our economy is expanding rapidly. New opportunities for our youth are emerging every day. Our Government has embarked on the largest education, social welfare, skill development and employment generation programmes in the history of our country.
We are paying particular focus on the development of our agriculture and the rural areas. Our financing requirements for the building of massive infrastructure in the next five years are estimated at over 500 billion US dollars.
I am confident that as and when these ambitious programmes are put in motion, India will embark on a new growth trajectory.
Due to the current international economic and financial situation, our growth rate may come down somewhat next year. However, we still hope to achieve a growth rate of seven to seven and a half per cent next year. The fundamentals of the Indian economy are very strong. Our banking system and financial institutions are well capitalized and their depositors are wholly secure. I have constituted a high level committee to monitor the evolving global situation and suggest short-term and long-term measure to use this opportunity to further accelerate our growth.
Your contribution to the development of India is truly invaluable. Annual remittances from Oman to India are more than 780 million dollars. This is a reflection of your ties with the motherland and your confidence in India.
I hope that you will continue to display the same confidence in the future and invest in the future of our children and grand children.
There are over 130 companies from India who are currently engaged in Oman. Several Omani companies are engaged in business in India. We will continue to encourage a much greater flow of investment into each other’s countries.
Yesterday, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed for the establishment of the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund. This is only the beginning. I hope that this Fund will open the door for far greater investment and economic cooperation between our two countries.
The Government of India is constantly alive to the welfare of the Non-Resident Indian community. Yesterday, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between India and Oman on Labour Mobility, Protection and Welfare of workers. This important initiative will provide a framework for strengthening cooperation between our two countries in the field of human resource development.
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, under the able leadership of my senior colleague Shri Vayalar Ravi, has taken several other initiatives in the last few years for the benefit of the Indian diaspora.
The Ministry is in the process of establishing Overseas Indian Community Welfare Funds in all our Missions in the Gulf. The Overseas Workers Resource Centre, which is a toll free helpline, has been established for Indian workers in the Gulf. We have also created an Overseas Indian Facilitation Centre to provide opportunities for you to invest in India. A Scholarship Scheme for Diaspora Children has been introduced.
Our relations with the Sultanate of Oman are based on solid foundations of close mutual understanding, trust and great warmth and respect for each other. Each one of you has an important role to play in further cementing this very important relationship and in spreading the message of goodwill at the people-to-people level. In many ways you are the Ambassadors at large for India.
I wish you continued success and happiness in your future endeavours.”