New Delhi: Qatar's
Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, one of the world's richest
monarchs and whose tiny country of barely two million people has
the world's highest per capita income, is expected to visit India
soon, with export of gas, of which his country is the largest
exporter, and investment high on the agenda, officials said.
"The Qatar emir's visit is very much on the agenda. It is expected
to take place in the next couple of months. We are working out the
schedule," R. Ghanshyam, joint secretary (Gulf) at the Ministry of
External Affairs, told IANS.
He said the Qatari ruler will be accompanied by a high-level
delegation and many big deals are likely to be signed. India's
bilateral trade with the country grew four-fold in five years from
$1.2 billion in 2005 to $4.6 billion in 2010.
This will be the first visit of the Qatari ruler to India in seven
years. Sheikh Hamad, who deposed his father to become amir in
1995, visited India in May 2005. He had also visited New Delhi in
A senior official at the Qatari embassy here confirmed that the
visit was likely to take place soon, but added that the schedule
and other details were being finalised.
The Qatari ruler's visit follows Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's
visit to Doha in November 2008. Singh is the only Indian prime
minister who has visited Qatar, a small country located in the
northeastern coast of the Arabian peninsula.
Qatar, which possesses more than 15 percent of the world's proven
gas reserves, has emerged as the biggest exporter of the
hydrocarbon. India is among its biggest buyers, with annual
purchases of 7.5 million tonnes.
In fact, India has been requesting additional supply of liquefied
natural gas (LNG) from Qatar to meet its growing energy demands
and possible disruption of supply from sanctions-hit Iran. It also
bought four million tonnes of crude last year.
During the visit Sheikh Hamad is likely to make commitments to
increase gas supply. Apart from the political engagements,
exploring investment opportunities will also be on top of the
agenda of Sheikh Hamad's visit to India, officials said.
According to the US-based Forbes magazine report, Sheikh Hamad --
who was educated in Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy -- is the
world's eighth richest monarchs with a personal wealth of $2.4
He has introduced several reforms and transformed Qatar from a
pearl-fishing centre to one of the richest countries in the
region. It now claims the highest per capita income in the world
-- an astounding $1 million.
Officials said the Qatar Investment Authority, the emirate's
sovereign wealth fund, was looking for investment opportunities in
Sovereign wealth funds of the Gulf region have invested heavily in
the US and European countries. Due to economic slowdown, returns
on their investments in the US and European countries have been
far below their expectations.
Indian professionals working there
number over 500,000
Indians form the highest community, larger even than local
Annual remittances from the country
topped $1 billion last year
A large number of Indian companies
have a presence in Qatar
Indian firms include TCS, L&T, Wipro, NIIT, Tech Mahindra, Punj
Lloyd and Voltas
India has contract to import 7.5 million tonnes of gas every year
India also bought four million
tonnes of crude from there last year
Air India, Jet Airways and Qatar Airways operate direct flights
between India and Qatar
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be contacted at email@example.com