Closer ties with India
By Azaraimy HH

Brunei and India are set to expand economic and energy ties with the signing of four agreements when His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam visits India next week, India Wire Services IANS reported.

The two countries will sign a bilateral investment and protection agreement (BIPA) and a pact on trade and economic cooperation during His Majesty's visit.

Two memorandum of understandings (MOUs) on greater cooperation in information and communicationS technology (ICT), and culture, arts, mass media and sports will also be signed, the report stated.

His Majesty will visit India on May 20 for a four-day visit. According to the report, His Majesty will also be going to Bangalore to visit the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) and a few IT establishments. According to the report, this will be the first visit by His Majesty in over a decade.

His Majesty will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a wide range of bilateral issues, including the intensification of economic and energy ties.

The report said His Majesty will call on President Pratibha Patiland Vice-President Hamid Ansari; meet United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson, Sonia Ghandi; and Opposition leader, LK Advani.

Expanding energy ties between India and Brunei will top the agenda. The report also said Brunei has been asking India to reduce oil and gas import duties as part of the proposed India-Asean free trade agreement.

Bilateral trade between India and Brunei has more than doubled to US$200 million in the last five years, the report stated, while oil and gas account for over 80 per cent of India's imports from Brunei.

As a member of Asean, Brunei has actively backed the inclusion of India as a full dialogue partner in the regional groupings, the report said. - Borneo Bulletin (18th May 2008)