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Arab businesses want India to ease investment norms

By Aasha Khosa in New Delhi
April 21, 2008 14:40 IST
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New Delhi needs to do a lot more spadework to attract Arab investments, delegates attending the two-day Indo-Arab investment projects conclave have said.

"We are ready with our money but it's so difficult to get a business visa to India,'' said Dr Abdul Rahman A Al Rabiah, managing director of Alrabiah, a consulting and engineering services company.

He is leading the Saudi Arabian business delegation to the conclave, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry). Delegates from 13 Arab countries are participating in the event.

Quoting instances, Rehman said, "Business leaders who have five-year multi-entry visa into the UK and Europe are merely given a three-month visa for India.''

Though, Rahman said the Saudis were keen to invest in infrastructure projects in India and would like Indian investments in power, gas and oil and infrastructure sectors, New Delhi needs to liberalise its investment regime a little more.

He expects India to make registration of foreign companies less cumbersome, liberalise its money exchange procedures and extend the tax exemption to the service sector.

Egypt's Mohamed Ashmawy, chairman and managing director, The United Bank, said, "India is a bit late'' in seeking investment from the Arabs.

"In spite of extremely good political and cultural relations between India and Egypt, neither side tried to translate this goodwill into an economic relationship,'' he said.

However, Egyptians say they are more comfortable doing business with India than China. "An Indian businessman is like a family member while we cannot even communicate with the Chinese,'' said Ashmawy, who is part of the official delegation to the conclave.

He said Indian companies were acquiring businesses in Egypt and had made a "good impression about their business culture.''

However, he said India would remain a "greenfield for investors for the next 20 years while the Chinese market has already saturated.''

"Arabia could be India's gateway to Europe and Africa,'' he said. The conclave, being organised under the newly-launched Indo-Arab Economic Forum, is expected to help the business leaders clinch deals for about 69 projects worth $150 billion.

The countries that are participating in the conclave are Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibuti, Egypt, Iran, Jordon, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the UAE, Yemen and Qatar.

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Aasha Khosa in New Delhi
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