India and Qatar decided on Tuesday to set up a special task force to facilitate investments by the Qatar Investment Authority, part of India’s ongoing outreach to key West Asian states to overcome the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision was made when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on the telephone with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani. The two leaders also looked at potential Qatari investments in the entire energy value chain in India.
The move came ahead of an expected visit to Qatar and Kuwait by external affairs minister S Jaishankar and a trip to Oman by minister of state for external affairs V Muraleedharan. On Tuesday, Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane began the first ever visit by an army chief to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.
The flurry of engagements are part of India’s current outreach to West Asia, seen as part of New Delhi’s extended neighbourhood and home to some nine million expatriates.
The leaders of India and Qatar discussed the “robust cooperation” between both sides in investment flows and energy security, and decided to “create a special task force to further facilitate investments by Qatar Investment Authority into India”, the external affairs ministry said.
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They also decided to explore Qatari investments in the entire energy value chain in India and reviewed recent positive developments in the investment and energy sectors.
Modi conveyed his felicitations to the emir for the forthcoming Qatari national day of Qatar, while Al-Thani appreciated the enthusiasm with which the Indian community in Qatar participates in the celebrations.The leaders agreed to remain in regular touch and looked forward to meeting in person after the normalisation of the situation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recent weeks, India has focused on the interests of Indian workers in West Asia, and Jaishankar raised the issue of the return of a large number of Indian workers and professionals who want to resume work amid the easing of Covid-19-related restrictions during a virtual meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) troika last month. The meeting was joined by senior officials of Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain.
India had despatched medicines and medical rapid response teams to West Asia amid the pandemic and also ensured that there was no disruption of food and essential supplies. This was appreciated by the GCC states.