Indian Ambassador Sanjiv Arora; K K M Kutty, Chairman, CII Gulf Committee; Azim Abbas, President, IBPN, along with other delegates and officials during a reception at Sheraton Doha Hotel. (Kammutty VP)
DOHA: Qatar has plans to make huge investments in India’s promising sectors, including, power, port, road, agriculture, real estate and other infrastructure development projects, but due to some “policy-related hurdles and bureaucracy” the decision is temporarily on hold, a senior member of an Indian trade mission said here on Monday after meeting with senior government officials including representatives from Qatar Holding company, an investment arm of Qatar’s sovereign funds.
“Our meetings with the Qatari businessmen and officials from Qatar Holding were very encouraging. Qatar is desperate to make big investments in India, particularly in the infrastructure sector,” said Gurpal Singh, Principal Advisor and Head of the Middle East and North Africa division at the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), one of the largest and oldest industry bodies.
The visiting delegation had interactions with a host of dignitaries from the Government of Qatar, including Ministry of Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance.
Singh said: “They (Qatari investors) are waiting for some policy reforms in India which were earlier promised by our finance minister and industry minister during their recent visits to the Gulf state.”
Singh was here as a member of the 14-member multi sectoral trade mission under the leadership of K K M Kutty, Chairman, CII Gulf Committee, on a two-day visit to enhance bilateral trade ties. The delegates represented a wide-range of sectors including healthcare, IT, infrastructure, energy and others.
Speaking to The Peninsula on the sidelines of a dinner hosted by the Indian Business & Professional Network (IBPN) in honour of the delegation, Singh candidly noted that after the ‘controversial Vodafone tax evasion case’ in India, foreign investors had become a little cautious and seeking policy reforms which should be “balanced and more investment-friendly”.
In 2010, India’s Income-tax Department issued a show-cause notice to Vodafone asking the company ‘why it should not be treated as assessee in default for not withholding the Indian Capital Gain Tax’. In that case the Bombay High Court held Vodafone accountable for tax evasion, with a remark “the present is a case of tax evasion and not tax avoidance” which was subsequently overruled by the country’s apex court in January 2012.
While addressing the guests and members of the media, Kutty said: “We had several meetings with senior government officials from different sectors. And all the meetings were positive. We discussed bilateral investment opportunities in different sectors including oil and downstream industries.”
Present at the dinner were Indian Ambassador Sanjiv Arora, IBPN President Azim Abbas and several guests and businessmen.
The volume of bilateral trade between Qatar and India has grown from $1.2bn in 2005 to $16bn in 2013, showing a massive jump. However, the trade balance is in favour of Qatar as India imports a significant share of its energy from Qatar.
“We are trying to substantially enhance trade and investment cooperation between India and Qatar… and facilitating business collaboration is on top of our agenda,” added Arora.
Arora said that during meetings with the Qatari officials, he assured them that there was no need to be panic for the depreciating Indian currency against dollar and other challenges as the macro economic fundamentals were very strong.