At the fag end of his term, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be visiting Oman and Qatar — his first trip to any West Asian country — a three-day visit starting Saturday. Singh’s visit to Qatar is, in fact, the first ever by an Indian PM.
The PM’s visit, South Block officials said, assumes importance because of the fact that there have been several visits from top leaders from Gulf countries in the last three years but this is the first in the last four years — and months ahead of the general elections — that Singh is paying a visit to a West Asian country.
Singh, in a statement on the eve of his departure, said: “The current international economic and financial situation provided a unique opportunity for India to leverage the vast surplus funds in the Gulf for our development needs, and to accelerate trade and investment flows into each other’s countries.”
“We have a large number of Indians working in Oman and Qatar. During my discussions in Oman and Qatar, I shall also discuss ways in which we can better assure their safety and welfare,” he added.
The Gulf, Singh said, is an area of vital importance for India’s security and prosperity. “We attach great importance to our ties in Qatar — one of the largest and most reliable suppliers of our energy needs from the region. I am confident we can build a mutually beneficial strategic partnership in this sector.”