New Delhi: Qatar and India are set to sign a defence agreement "soon", Shekhar Dutt, defence secretary with the government of India, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. According to Dutt, both India and Qatar, which have had long and friendly relations, would formalize their relations in defence matters with an agreement.
Shekhar Dutt was heading a six-member official delegation to Qatar from June 17 to 22.
Elaborating, the defence secretary said that the two countries have already been co-operating and collaborating in defence related matters in many ways, including training of personnel, joint exercises and service-to-service information sharing. With the signing of the agreement, "hopefully this year", these relations will be institutionalized.
Dutt pointed out that India has similar co-operation agreements with other countries like the US, UK, France, South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Germany and Japan. In the Gulf region, New Delhi has a similar pact only with Oman. The Indo-Qatar agreement would be identical to the ones that Qatar has with the USA, UK and France.
During the visit, Dutt met HH, the Heir Apparent, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, chief of staff of the armed forces, HE, Maj Gen Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, and chiefs of the air force and the navy. The delegation's talks with HH, the Heir Apparent, and others, focused on expanding co-operation possibilities and meeting requirements in matters related to defence, Dutt said.
According to Dutt, HH Sheikh Tamim was "very forthcoming" about India's potential, and expertise in defence production and defence-related fields. Asked about an increased Indian role in the region, the defence secretary said, "we are as much in the region as they (the Gulf countries) are" as India straddled one side of the Indian Ocean.
Besides, both the partners had centuries of trade relations and a very large number of Indians worked in the GCC countries in "essential sectors".
With India emerging as a "knowledge power" during the last decade, the role of Indians working overseas had changed as well. Now, more Indians were working in the higher end of jobs in technical areas such as engineering, medicine, administration and journalism. "When you do that, you are taking part in the nation-building process" of these countries, said Dutt.
The Indian delegation also visited Al-Udaid base, the Doha air and naval base, Qatar Foundation, Qatar Leadership Academy and Ras Laffan.
Qatar was based on an "absolutely solid foundation of growth, with excellent policies", remarked Dutt.
During the Qatar visit, Dutt was accompanied by Sanjay Singh, JS (Gulf), ministry of external affairs, RK Parmar, Dir. (IC), Rear Admiral Sameer Chakravorty, Air Cmde Devinder Singh, Brig Nirmolak Singh, Capt. K G Vishwanathan, DIG KR Nautiyal, Coast Guards and Capt. MD Suresh from the Indian embassy in Muscat.
The team has since returned to India.