Our principle export products to this region are tea, spices, fruits and vegetables, tobacco meat, oil-cakes, chemicals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, engineering goods and textiles. On account of large imports of our essential requirements of crude oil, POL products and fertilisers, there is a large adverse balance of trade with the region as a whole. During 1997-98, India’s exports to WANA region showed an increase of 17.7% over 1996-97. In absolute terms, our exports increased from Rs 11,874 crores in 1996-97 to Rs 13,975 crores in 1997-98. On the import side, the increase was not significant in 1997-98 when compared to 1996-97.
In absolute terms, our imports from WANA region countries increased from Rs 35,086 crores in 1996-97 to Rs 35,262 crores in 1997-98. The growth in exports was the result of various export promotion efforts undertaken both at the government and at the business level. In short, our total trade with WANA region registered a growth of 5% during 1997-98, as compared to 1996-97. UAE and Saudi Arabia are our largest trading partners in the WANA regions. While UAE accounted for about 42% of our total exports and 18% of our total imports in the WANA region, Saudi Arabia’s share was 18% of our exports and 27% of our imports in this region. The upward trend in exports has continued in the first half of 1998-99 too. A perusal of trade figures for 1998-99 (April-September) shows that India’s exports to WANA region countries have increased by 33% in rupee terms and 15% in dollar terms, when compared with the corresponding period of previous year 1997-98. In absolute terms, the figures stand at Rs 5,967 crores and Rs 7,917 crores during April-September periods of 1997-98 and 1998-99 respectively.
The Gulf region continues to occupy the top position in the whole region, with UAE and Saudi Arabia being the top two destinations of Indian exports in the region. However, the imports, during the same period, have shown a declining trend, depicting a negative growth of (-) 9% in rupee terms and (-) 21% in dollar terms. This development is interesting to note vis-vis India’s global exports and imports both of which have shown positive growth of 13% and 28% respectively, during the first six months of the current financial year 1998-99. In recent years, Dubai has rapidly emerged as a major entrepot.
India’s exports invoiced to Dubai, find their destination in a multitude of markets in the Gulf, Iran, Central Asian Republics, Russia and North East Africa. Similarly, India has become, after Iran, the second largest destination of re exports from Dubai. Our trade and economic linkages with UAE in general, and Dubai in particular, have commanded a special focus in our cooperation effects.
Prior to the Iran-Iraq war, India and Iraq had diversified on intensive trade relations. However, the Iran-Iraq War, followed by the Gulf crisis of 1990 and consequent imposition of UN sanctions against Iraq have almost halted the trade flow between India and Iraq. Only essential items like food, medicines, etc. are permissible for export from India to Iraq, with the approval of the UN Sanctions Committee. As a special measure on humanitarian ground, UNO launched the “Oil for Food” programme. Currently, the fifth phase of the “Oil for Food” programme for 6 months is in operation which has commenced from 25th November 1998.
Under this programme, Indian companies have bagged export orders worth about US $ 50 million for various items which includes tea, pharmaceuticals, poly propylene bags, school/ stationery items, etc. The first Joint Business Council (JBC) meeting between India and Iran, under the aegis of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Mines from Iranian side, was held in Tehran in May 1998. The two sides identified new areas of cooperation such as computer software, power sector, agro products, etc. India’s export growth to WANA region which increased by 18% has become possible, due to the joint efforts put in by our Ministry, our missions abroad and the private sector. With our relentless efforts, India’s bilateral trade with these countries is poised to grow further.