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Bahrain beckons Indian firms to invest

Bahrain CCI chairman Esam Abdulla Fakhoro20140129132808_l

Bangalore, Jan 29: Bahrain on Tuesday invited Indian businesses to invest in the Persian Gulf island country, taking advantage of its strategic location, favourable investment climate and access to markets.

"Bahrain is the best gateway for Indian investors in the region as it has a direct access to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) largest market, Saudi Arabia, via a causeway to the commercial centres of the eastern province," Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Esam Abdulla Fakhoro said at an international trade meet here.

Showcasing Bahrain at the partnership summit being held here since Monday by the Confederation of India Industry (CII), Fakhoro said his country offered businesses best access point to the Gulf market, an economy valued at $1.5 trillion and set to reach $2 trillion by 2020.

"We are not only the lowest cost in the GCC, but also a well diversified open market in the Gulf, ranked 13th freest in the world after the US by the Heritage Foundation. With zero taxation and 100 percent foreign ownership, operating cost in our country is among the lowest in the region," he said.

Bahrain is also a leading financial centre in the region with skilled, bilingual and low-cost workforce, enabling companies to hire local people than getting other countries.

"Being a bilingual country with Arabic and English as the lingua franca, we have been able to attract many international businesses to invest in Bahrain," Fakhoro said.

"Leading Indian banks like State Bank of India and ICICI Bank, Indian IT bellwether TCS, JBF Industries and First Flight Couriers, to name a few, have been operating from our capital Manama," he added.

Noting that many Indian firms were looking to expand into new markets, he said that as the world’s centre of oil and gas, the wealth generated from ‘black gold’ was being invested in infrastructure development across the region to meet needs of its growing and young population.

"Around $3 trillion worth of GCC projects are under construction or in pipeline, offering immense opportunities to Indian firms across verticals and value chain to capitalise and profit," he said.

Though total trade between the two countries was $1.7 billion in 2011, India is the GCC’s third largest trading partner, accounting for seven percent of the region’s GDP ($135 billion).

As the GCC’s third largest trading partner with $135 billion worth bilateral trade, India accounts for seven percent of the region’s GDP.

As a cosmopolitan nation, Bahrain has population of 1.3 million, including 350,000 Indians, making them the largest expatriates in Manama.

"We are an outward-looking people and maintain cordial relations with countries the world over. With Indians accounting for 25 percent of expats, Indian culture is rooted in Bahraini life," he said.

Tracing the historic relations between the two countries to Indus Valley and Mesopotomia era, Bahrain Transportation Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohamed said that trade routes dated back about 5,000 years, as was evident from records of Bahraini traders travelling to India to sell pearls in exchange for Indian spices.

"It’s heartening that our historical links have evolved into modern economic relations for businesses to succeed," Mohamed said.

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