With an eye on future business with India, Qatar rolled out the red carpet for visiting Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani when its ruler Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani made him the guest of honour at the inauguration of the country's ambitious chemical manufacturing facility.
Changing his original schedule, Advani arrived in Umm Said late Monday night to be present at the inauguration of the over $1 billion Qatar Chemical Company Complex (Q-Chem), a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum and multinational Chevron Philips on a 51:49 basis.
The Deputy Prime Minister had originally planned to stay in Mumbai on Monday and was to arrive in Doha on the first leg of his two-nation tour to Qatar and France only on Tuesday morning.
But he changed his plans to be in Qatar in time for the inauguration of the project, touted as a milestone in the country's economic vision.
Though India directly does not have a stake in the project, the Qatari interest in doing business with India speaks of the potential the economic ties between the two countries has.
This is also the first high-level visit by any Indian leader to Qatar after late President Zail Singh's visit in the early eighties and the visit of the Emir to India in 1999.
Advani later held discussions with Qatar's Energy Minister Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah covering bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of import of liquified natural gas from Qatar.
India is interested in LNG supplies from Qatar as it surges ahead as a major exporter of the commodity and Oman gas pipeline project appearing to be a non-starter.
LNG imports constitute a priority interest for India's bilateral economic relations with Qatar, which has made major investments in the exploitation of its LNG reserves and is set to emerge as major LNG supplier in the new century.
India's close geographical proximity and long-term energy requirements make it a prime prospect for sale of LNG from Qatar's point of view.
In a major development, Petrone LNG, a consortium of ONGC, IOC, BPCL and Gail, had awarded Rasgas a contract in September, 1998 to supply 7.5 million per tonnes per annum of LNG for projects in Dahej, Gujarat and Puthuvyapu in Kerala.
The Sales and Purchase Agreement was concluded between Rasgas and Petronet in 1999 paving the way for the commencement of the 25-year gas deal. The deliveries are expected to begin by December this year.
This deal, which is rated as India's largest LNG deal with any Gulf State will make India the largest purchaser of LNG from Qatar and will considerably enhance India's economic profile in Qatar.
The deal is also expected to encourage the participation of major Indian companies in the upstream and downstream projects in Qatar.Apart from gas, India also buys low-density polyethylene and ethylene and organic and inorganic chemicals from Qatar.