The first panel session, chaired by Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director at IISS-Middle East, focused on the changing dynamics of Gulf-Asia economic links and featured insights from Dr. Jarmo Kotilaine, Chief Economist at the EDB and Prof P.R. Kumaraswamy, of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Panel discussions on trends in demographics and labour migration in the Gulf, and business opportunities for Indian investors in Bahrain were also held with HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Political and Economic Advisor to HRH Crown Prince’s Court; Dr. Mohan Kumar, Ambassador of India to Bahrain; Ausamah bin Abdullah Al Absi, Chief Executive of the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA); and Dr. Didar Singh, Secretary-General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), among others.
Speaking at the forum, Khalid Al Rumaihi said:
“India is one of Bahrain and the Gulf region’s most important trade partners. A number of Indian businesses have established operations in Bahrain to access the fast-growing Gulf region and in doing so, are adding long-term value to our economy and are creating high quality jobs for Bahrainis.
“Events such as this are an important part of developing ties and learning from each other how Indian and Bahraini businesses can benefit from strong growth in both our regions, and what needs to be done if they are to continue to thrive and create jobs.”
Sir John Jenkins, Executive Director, IISS said:
“The Gulf is undergoing a great transformation. The six economies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are diversifying their economies away from oil and gas and have rapidly expanding affluent populations. This presents significant opportunities for international investors, particularly those in Asia, and especially India, given the two regions historically close ties.”
According to the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Bahrain is the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) freest economy country. Overall, the Kingdom is ranked 18th out of 178 economies worldwide.
A number of leading Indian companies have established offices or facilities in Bahrain to access the fast-growing GCC market, including: Chemco, RBH MEDEX, First Flight Couriers Ltd, Ion Exchange, Pythhos Technology, Equitec Software Technology, Sun Shed Energy, JBF Industries, Canara Bank, Tech Mahindra, HDFC Bank Ltd, Bank of Baroda, Tata Consultancy Services, ICICI Bank and State Bank of India.
Last month it was announced that Indian businessmen and tourists have seen the greatest benefit of Bahrain’s new visa policy according to new statistics. Indian nationals have been able to apply for eVisas from October 2014, and since then have been issued more eVisas than visitors from any of the other countries made eligible by the changes in regulations.