A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

following the money trail: Indian investments in Syria

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 27, 2007

The Oxford Business Group‘s latest report on Syria interprets the same 2006 FDI numbers quite differently than I did in following the money trail.

OBG’s Syria: Ties with India emphasizes a number I mentioned but thought little about: the $84 million that India invested in Syria during 2006.

Here is OBG’s take on things:

Having enjoyed considerable and profitable success with both Iran and China, Syria is now turning its attention to another of the emerging giants of Asia – India.

Like China, India has been increasing its profile in the Middle East, seeking new markets for exports and ramping up investments so as to gain a stake in the energy sector and to open trade doors. India’s booming information technology (IT) industry is also looking to the region, where countries such as Syria are just entering the next stage of the technology and communications revolution.

In 2006, India was one of the largest non-Arab investors in Syria. Though well behind front runner Iran, which accounted for half of the $800m of investments from non-Arab nations, India came in a respectable third with $84m, just behind neighbour and rival China, which contributed $100m to the total.

India’s contribution to Syrian foreign investment looks even more healthy when it is considered that fourth ranked Germany directed just $24m, while total European investments added up to $155m.

Most of the Indian investments in Syria to date have been relatively small scale, mainly in the energy sector. However, this is something Damascus is seeking to change.

In mid-January, Fouad Issa al-Jouni, the Syrian industry minister, was in the Indian city of Bangalore to tout his country’s investment potential. Taking part in the annual Partnership Summit, staged by the Confederation of Indian Industry, he said his country had much to offer Indian investors.

Syria is a good option for investment with its unique geographical location, diversified economy, ongoing trade liberalisation process and good infrastructure base, al-Jouni said.

Al-Jouni also said that his visit would allow him and members of the accompanying delegation of Syrian businessmen to get acquainted with the latest technological and economic developments in India, and to promote Syria’s major industrial advancement and available investment potential.

Another prominent figure to recently give a sales pitch for Syria was India’s ambassador to Damascus, G. Mukhopadhyaya. Addressing the Federation of Andhra Pradesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Indian city of Hyderabad on January 9, the ambassador described Syria as virgin market for investors.

Saying that there had been a major liberalisation of the Syrian banking and finance sectors, Mukhopadhyaya said these offered good business opportunities.

There was also immense business potential for Indian businesspeople in the country’s pharmaceutical sector, railways, information technology, education, tourism, construction, agro-processing, textiles and textile machinery industries.

Another move to deepen cooperation came on December 18, 2006, when the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce (FSSC) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Indian Merchants’ Chamber (IMC) outlining plans for cooperation and promotion of bilateral business relations between the two groups.

Fascinating. Now that my eyes have been opened, I can’t wait to see where these new partnerships lead.

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