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India, Oman to boost economic, energy ties

New Delhi, Oct 19 (IANS) India and Oman, the Gulf country which is home to over half a million expatriate Indians, will Wednesday discuss ways to scale up economic and energy ties when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna holds talks with his Omani counterpart Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah.

Bin Abdullah arrives here Wednesday on a three-day visit. He will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday.

The focus of the visit will be on expanding economic and defence ties, official sources said. Counter-terror cooperation will also be discussed.

The two sides will discuss expanded cooperation in diverse sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, hospitals, power, mining, oil and gas, education, tourism, healthcare, chemicals and fertilisers.

They are expected to discuss the the India-Oman Joint Investment Fund, which was started in November 2008 with a seed capital of $100 million and is likely to be increased to $1.5 billion.

Trade and investment between India and Oman have been growing in the last few years. Trade touched $4.5 billion last year, while total bilateral investment is worth $7.5 billion.

India is the fifth largest source of imports into Oman. Oman’s investments in India have exceeded $200 million. In 2008, major Indian companies, independently or in collaboration, bagged contracts worth $836 million in the Gulf country.

It is not just economic engagement that is growing. The two countries decided to step up defence cooperation by upgrading their joint naval exercises during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Oman in 2008.

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