India is looking towards building “stronger” relations with Qatar in the fields of oil and gas, infrastructure, and defence through various agreements and strategic partnerships, ambassador Sanjiv Arora has said.
He said while the oil price slump affected trade volume between Qatar and India, liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Qatar are expected to increase following the recent agreement signed between RasGas and India’s Petronet LNG for an additional 1mn metric tonnes of supplies a year.
Arora said, “We are importing more than 80% of our LNG needs from Qatar. We are also one of the largest importers of fertilisers, particularly urea, from Qatar. Trade volume between Qatar and India stood at $17bn in 2014. Nearly $16bn comprise exports from Qatar to India and almost $1bn in imports.
“In 2015, our exports increased by almost 20% to 25% or $1.25bn from India’s side. The import figures slightly decreased due to the fall in oil prices but it was still between $17bn and $16bn.”
The ambassador expressed optimism that the latest agreement with RasGas will push LNG exports higher despite the fall in oil prices.
He noted that the agreement, which was signed on December 31, 2015 was in addition to the existing LNG sale and purchase agreement (SPA) of 7.5mn tonnes a year signed in 1999.
On the infrastructure side, Arora said Qatar “is seriously looking” at India’s $6.2bn National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), which was aimed at funding the development of the country’s major infrastructure projects.
“This proposal was presented in July 2015 and the implementation has just started since the fund has just been registered a few weeks back. They are keen on the project and currently, they are studying the details,” Arora told Gulf Times, referring to the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
He added: “In principle, the QIA has a positive response to the NIIF and they are keenly looking at it.”
Citing examples of other Qatari investments in India, Arora said in April 2013, Qatar Foundation Endowment (QFE), the investment arm of Qatar Foundation, acquired a 5% stake in India’s Bharti Airtel. The volume for investment was $1.35bn, Arora added.
Arora also said India is looking for Qatari investments in the defence sector, adding that the Indian government has increased the limit of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in its defence industry from 26% to 49%.
“We have been discussing this with (India’s) Ministry of Defence, including plans for the arrival of a Qatari delegation during an international fleet review involving friendly navies from countries around the world. We are also discussing with the Qatari side to look seriously at our strong capabilities for defence production.
“In the last three years, we had three visits by Indian coastguard ships, which were all built in India. We have world-class strengths for defence production and at highly-competitive rates, which is another investment opportunity for both India and Qatar,” Arora said.
Indian ambassador Sanjiv Arora is optimistic that the latest agreement Petronet LNG reached with RasGas will push LNG exports higher despite the fall in oil prices. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil