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Indian pundits, stakeholders see strong chances of greater Jordan-India cooperation

12 MoUs signed during King’s visit ‘impressive’; easing visa requirement lauded

By Mohammad Ghazal - Mar 04,2018 - Last updated at Mar 04,2018

His Majesty King Abdullah poses for a group photo with top Indian businesspeople at a roundtable meeting in New Delhi last week (Photo courtesy of Royal Court)

AMMAN — Indian economists, opinion leaders and business representatives said Jordan can be a hub for Indian businesses seeking to penetrate several world markets as they can benefit from free-trade agreements the Kingdom has entered with heavy-weight international partners.

The Indian economists and opinion leaders interviewed  online by The Jordan Times on Saturday said they highly valued His Majesty King Abdullah’s visit to India last week, saying they were impressed with the 12 agreements the two countries signed and that the scope for greater cooperation between India and Jordan is brighter than ever before.

They also lauded Jordan’s recent decision to provide visas to Indian nationals upon arrival.

Jordan’s position, stability and skilled workforce coupled with the free trade agreements with the US, Turkey and access to Iraq, Africa and Gulf countries as well as deals with Europe and several other states were highlighted as key benefits for Indian businesses seeking a foothold in the region.

“There are immense cooperation opportunities between India and Jordon, especially in the field of trade, IT, healthcare and defense. Tourism being an important sector of Jordanian economy is also likely to get a significant boost due to the easing of Visa restrictions,” Jayesh Kumar, an economist at Kotak Securities, one of the oldest and largest Equity Broking House in India, told The Jordan Times on Saturday.

Indian businesses would benefit by investing in Jordan due to its free trade with the US and easy access to Gulf and Europe, Kumar added Saturday.

During His Majesty’s visit to India, the two sides signed 12 agreements in areas of defence, health and medicine, manpower cooperation. A MoU was also signed for setting up of a next generation centre of excellence (CoE) in Jordan for training of at least 3,000 Jordanian IT professionals over a period of five years, and setting up of a resource centre in India for training of master trainers in the IT field from Jordan. Other agreements signed include long-term supply of rock phosphate and fertilisers to India.

“Long-term MoU on rock phosphate ensures long-term and sustained supply of rock phosphates to India, a key raw material in Indian fertiliser consumption. It also ensures alignment of long-term business interests between two countries,” he said.

The economist added that Indian investments in Jordan’s IT and healthcare sector are likely to increase due to the availability of skilled workforce and better diplomatic relations. 

“Diplomatic relations between two countries are likely to grow warmer, removal of the visa requirement for diplomatic and official passport holders in a welcome move,” he added.

King Abdullah’s visit to India was “ extremely productive and useful” for deepening bilateral relations, said Professor Sachin Chaturvedi, director general of New Delhi-based Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), in remarks to The Jordan Times on Saturday.

“We are quite impressed by the list of the 12 MoUs that have been signed, particularly in the area of skill upgradation in Jordan and cooperation in the realm of health and medicine with potential for joint research, medical education, and strengthening of universal healthcare programmes across the two countries,” Chaturvedi said.

India has also agreed to establish a Phosphoric Acid / NPK Fertilizers production unit in Jordon with 100 per cent buy back arrangement and also to strengthen customs related facilities in Jordon for its automation and administration, he said.

“The agreement between Agra and Petra to work jointly for promoting social relations by cooperating in the areas of tourism, culture and sports gives greater hope for people to people contact. The establishment of a Hindi Chair at the University of Jordon and cultural exchange programme envisaged in the relevant MoU are the steps that underline the importance of people to people cooperation,” Chaturvedi said.

“At this stage, investments are also extremely marginal. The Jordanian Businessmen Association (JBA) has come forward for greater cooperation with more than 10,000 Indians in Jordan. Thus, the scope for greater cooperation and mutual understanding between India and Jordan is brighter than ever before,” the academic said.

Sidhant Siba, a correspondent at DD News, said cooperation in the tourism field and people-to-people cooperation is a great area for increased activity.

“Lawrence of Arabia movie made [Wadi Rum] famous. May be a Bollywood movie thee can help gain popularity,” he said.

Jordan is an area of stability in West Asia and a lot of Indian businesses can make it their base, Siba said, adding that Jordan’s FTAs with international partners can help a lot. 

The journalist added that Jordan should take care of the communication aspect of the partnership. 

“Jordan needs to tell Indian businesses why it can become a good base [for them]. You already provide visa on arrival, but lot of people do not know,” he said, adding that counter-terrorism was another area of cooperation.

“It is the people-to-people contact that has to be increased. Jordan still does not occupy lot of mind space for many Indians and that needs to be [addressed]. Lot of Indians in diaspora are in West Asia but not in Jordan… Jordan can also provide Indians access to Al Aqsa,” he said.

 Ambassador Anil Trigunayat, former Ambassador of India to Jordan, Libya and Malta, said His Majesty King Abdullah 's visit to India is a landmark in Indo-Jordan bilateral relations .

"Both India and Jordan have suffered from extremism and terrorism and are on the forefront of the fight against these evils…Hence closer cooperation in counter –terrorism and de-radicalization of youth are the  key areas of cooperation. A defence framework agreement was also signed which outlines closer defence cooperation and exchanges, he said.

Trigunayat, who is also Adviser on Middle East & North Africa to FICCI/ BRICS Chamber of Commerce and Secretary of the Association of Indian Diplomats ( Former Ambassadors),  said India currently is the one the largest investors in Jordan be in in fertilisers or textiles or ICT . Bilateral trade can easily exceed $5 billion by 2025, he said.

"Since Jordan has a web of FTAs and preferential trading arrangements with all major markets Indian businesses could easily take advantage of the favourable tax regime by establishing in Jordan., Trigunayat told The Jordan Times.

Moreover, Jordan will be the reliable springboard for the Indian companies planning to partake in the eventual reconstruction of Syria and Iraq both of whom have borders with the Hashemite Kingdom, he said, adding that continued  business to business  engagement is essential to flag the investment and trade opportunities and issues if any should be resolved expeditiously.

On the easing of visas to Indians, Trigunayat said ease of mobility is an important incentive for trade , tourism and investment . 

Jordan is trying to attract Indian tourists and film industry apart from the businesses. Jordan already has a competitive investment regime and combined with ease in visa restrictions it will be possible for more and more businesses and travellers to visit Jordan to explore new opportunities, he said.

However, Jordan ‘s tourism and business potential needs to be marketed continuously through participation in various trade and investment meets as well as through media in India, the diplomat added.

"The State visit of His Majesty was an exceptional success both in terms of political interactions and highly significant outcomes… King Abdullah II charms India” Trigunayat said.

 Jose Sleeba, executive director Royal Omania Travel 100 %,  echoed similar remarks on easing visa restrictions.

 

"The new regulation is very good for Indian tourists and this will increase more tourists to Jordan from India," he said.

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