The Policy Times, in association with the Centre for West Asian Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) University, successfully organised a seminar on “Exploring Economic Opportunities in West Asia” on Wednesday, 14 November 2018 in JMI, New Delhi.
The seminar was organised to enlighten the students, research scholars, and academia a better understanding of economic opportunities in West Asia and to promote “Industry-Academia exchange”. One day event was aimed at to make people understand about India’s civilizational connection and contributions to Arab World, employment and business opportunities in West Asia in the process of wealth creation.
West Asian, a region with vast resources and vibrant cultures, has been the world business destination, especially for Indians. West Asian nations have the honour of having the maximum number of Indian expatriates. According to an estimate, somewhere around 8.5 million Indian works in Arab world generating a huge amount of remittances for India.
While delivering welcome address, Prof Javed Ahmad Khan, Officiating Director, Centre for West Asian Studies (JMI), said: “our youths need to equip themselves with the understanding of working environment in West Asia in a broader sense.”
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According to a report, India ranks first in the list of most remittance receiver, bringing around $69 billion in 2017. “We are not able to focus on the relations at the greater level because of lack of dialogue and coordination between the regions,” said Mr. A.T.M. Rokebul Haque, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India. “So we always talk and reach the people who understand each other’s requirement to see the future in a coordinated way” he added.
India and Bangladesh have been conspicuously maintaining its diplomatic presence in West Asian region that is guided by its trade relations, especially in the field of petrochemicals. “The trade relations have actually contributed in high connectivity, better defense cooperation and multilateral forums between the regions,” said Mr. Haque.
JMI Registrar Mr. A.P. Siddiqui (IPS) shared his experiences of oil boom era of 1970s by calling it a phased process. “Dubai is preparing for 2020 World Expo and this would be the 4th industrial revolution. So, our workforce has to be prepared for this opportunity. The gulf region has been initiating a new dimension of business age globally and it requires a huge young workforce to maintain.”
New age of economic diversification
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries share specific structural economic features as they depend heavily on hydrocarbon sector that could be seen in key macroeconomic indicators. Hence, economic diversification will be essential for Arab World because of limited natural resources. Thereby, current economic policies of GCC countries have been set to shift their economies away from heavy dependence on hydrocarbons towards more diversified economic system where the private sector becomes the engine of growth.
Dr. Z M Khan, Secretary General, Institute of Objective Studies said “The problem is not unemployment actually, but lack of employability is the main problem. We must think before anybody else does.”
India, on the other side, contains a vast number of work force due to its huge young population. Despite some very certain challenges in Arab economies at microeconomic level, Arab World has been highly lucrative in business terms. Immense potential exists for business in IT, construction, civil engineering, management, and hospitality. Young Indian population has to be prepared for such occasion.
Mr. Kaleemun Hafeez, Chairman-Al-Hafeez Educational Academy & CMD, Hotel River View, said “a very unique type of monopolistic business culture exists in India, and that affects our export-import relations with the region.”
Apart from petrochemicals, India imports various types of necessary products from Arab region, especially from Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Arab countries also want to be accommodated in India but are unable to do so because of lack of understanding of Indian market culture and dialogue and cooperation. “This is the age of data analysis and we must possess those skills that would be essential in the coming future. The age of technology is the age of opportunities, we just need to understand this” Mr. Hafeez added.
Exploring sustainable economic opportunities in West Asia has been the bone of contention for entire world, but on the other hand, West Asia region is eager to look into the East. It’s economic and business sectors are combination of both natural and technological resources. A strong skilled workforce is required for the region to run and regulate both government and private sectors. Asian economies, especially India, would be the best option to look upon. Asian market for workforce would be highly cost-effective for Arab world because of its well skilled and cheap labor.
Mr. Hafeez said, “We are not even active in approaching them. We have to take the initiative and approach them first. We are not getting exposure outside that is why we are unable to understand their needs and necessities. We have to understand the opportunity and grab that first”.
Apart from this, it is also relevant to understand the intense business culture on both sides of the regions. Economic diversification has become the core of West Asia’s market structures and economic policies. On the other side, skilled expatriates in Arab World have been the essence of India’s economic growth. The only thing that troubles us is the lake of understanding. Dialogues and discussions will eventually play the role in strengthening connectivity between us. For India, taking the initiative is the only thing that is required.