MANAMA: Indian investors can benefit from the GCC oil industry. That was the message from businessmen at the 'Invest in Bahrain - the Asian Promise' seminar organised by the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (BCCI) Bahrain Asian Traders Committee (BATC) yesterday at the Crowne Plaza.
They can also gain from several "untapped sectors" such as mining and minerals, tourism and infrastructure, in order to diversify trade relations between India and the GCC.
"Bahrain and the GCC have no other option but to look to the East," said Bahrain-India Society founder and chairman Abdulnabi Al Sho'ala in his keynote address.
"The global economic power has shifted towards Asia.
"The economies of our Western trading partners have become static and shrinking."
The volume of bilateral trade between India and the GCC could exceed $130 billion annually by 2013-14, according to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
Bahraini and GCC investors needed to tap opportunities for investment with India in order to strengthen ties and build a "win-win partnership", said BCCI chairman Dr Essam Fakhro.
"The BCCI will liaise with governments to ensure that private sector will remain the main locomotive of growth," he said.
Once the free trade agreement between the GCC and India is signed, the volume of trade is expected to receive a 30 per cent boost, added Mr Al Sho'ala, who is also chairman of Alfanar Investment Company.
"Oil accounts for 40pc of the trade," he said.
"The oil sector in the GCC presents opportunities for exploration to Indian investors."
India, which depends on the GCC countries for three-quarters of its oil needs, also has the fifth largest refinery capacity in the world.
With 3.4 million barrels of oil being consumed daily by India, a mutually beneficial trade relationship can enrich both partners.
The GCC is heavily dependent on outside sources for food and imports 90pc of its food requirements.
India being primarily an agrarian economy, is a natural choice for agro-based value chain in the GCC region, added Mr Al Sho'ala.
Gulf countries continue to depend on Asia for their manpower needs.
The Asian expatriate workforce in return contributes overwhelmingly to their home countries, by way of remittances.
An estimated 6m Indian expatriate workforce in the GCC remitted almost $20bn annually.
The Asian business community is important for Bahrain as it is a bridge to some of the fastest growing economies, said BCCI acting chief executive and BATC chairman Othman Sharif Al Rayes.