India maintained its historical and traditionally cordial relations and cooperation with the countries in the Gulf region. Gulf countries together provide 70% of our total crude oil requirement and about 4.5 million Indians live and work in the region, remitting more than US$ 10 billion annually. The year witnessed several high level visits which underlined the importance of the region in our relationship. The most important was PM Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Qatar and Oman in November 2008 which opened new areas for bilateral cooperation. In Qatar, PM signed two documents relating to defence cooperation and security as well as law enforcement matters. In Oman, an MoU on manpower and another for establishing India-Oman Joint Investment Fund were signed. EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee accompanied by MoS Shri E. Ahamed and Secretary (East) paid an official visit to Muscat from 13-14 January 2008. During the visit, EAM called on Deputy PM for Council of Ministers and Mr. Yousef bin Alawai bin Abdullah, Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman.
Dr. Majeed Mohsin Al Alawi Labour, Minister of Bahrain, visited India on 25 April 2008 and discussed with Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, the MoU on Labour and Manpower Development. Dr. Fatima Bin Al Balooshi, Minister of Social Development, Bahrain, visited India from 17-21 August 2008 and held talks with the Minister of Textiles and Minister of State for Women & Child Development among others.
MoS Shri E. Ahamed visited Kuwait from 29-31 January 2008. During the visit, MoS called on the Kuwaiti Prime Minister. A wide range of bilateral and regional issues, including the revised format for Labour Contract to be signed between the Kuwaiti employer and Indian worker were discussed in his meetings with the Deputy PM/Minister and Minister of Social Affairs in Labour.
The year, marked by several high-level visits, witnessed strengthened bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Ali Faisal visited India twice in 2008, in February when he called on PM Dr. Manmohan Singh and EAM Shri Pranab Mukherjee and on 26 December when he met Vice President, EAM and NSA. EAM paid a two- day visit to Saudi Arabia from 19-20 April 2008 and called on Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Governor of Riyadh Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Ali Saud. Mos Shri E. Ahamed visited Saudi Arabia on 17 April 2008 and signed the Haj agreement with Saudi Haj Minister Dr. Fouad Al-Farsy. Finance Minister along with Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister attended the Oil Summit, held in Jeddah on 22 June 2008 at the behest of Saudi King Abdullah.
The year 2008 also was the consolidation in the friendly bilateral ties between India and UAE. HE Shaikha Lubna Ali Qasimi, Minister of Foreign Trade, visited India on 25 April and was awarded “Woman Achiever of the Year” by FICCI. The 1st ever India-UAE Joint Air Forces exercise took place in September 2008 in Abu Dhabi. EAM visited UAE in May 2008 and met both the Foreign Minister and Crown Prince.