Brunei, India strengthen ties
By Liza Mohd in New Delhi, India

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam greatly values the relationship with India and looks forward to strengthening the spirit and continuing peace, progress and prosperity between India and Brunei Darussalam.

The monarch last night delivered a titah during the State Banquet hosted by the President of India, Mrs Pratibha Patil, at the presidential palace, Rashtrapati Bhawan, in honour of His Majesty's four-day State Visit to the country.

Citing India as the early architect of globalisation, His Majesty said that youths in Brunei are benefiting from contributions by Indian citizens in the health and education sector.

The presence of 8,000 Indians in Brunei may seem a small number to the vast country of India, but it represents a large community in Brunei and His Majesty expressed appreciation for their help in the development of the country particularly in the oil and gas industry.

His Majesty said he is still astonished with India's immense diversity from the ruler's previous visit to the country in 1992. The ruler said he looked forward to expanding relations with India in the area of health, trade and investment, defence, training and especially in ICT, where India is widely recognised.

His Majesty said the Sultanate admires India's remarkable achievements. The monarch added that he looks forward to strengthening ties between Brunei and India including cooperation in regional peace.

The President of India in her speech announced the setting up of India-Brunei Rice Research Institute where both countries will collaborate in the field of rice research.

It will initiate with the exchange of rice experts, highlighting that 90 per cent of the rice produced in the world is consumed in Asian countries and food security is engaging the attention of the world.

Brunei and India's economic and commercial links began with the discovery of oil in Brunei way back in 1929.

As a result, a large number of Indians took employment in Brunei Darussalam. Today, the Indian community comprising doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, teachers and skilled personnel are contributing to the Brunei's economy, the President stated.

"India's sustained economic growth of about eight per cent in the past decade has propelled India to be one of the major economies of the world and therefore has opened up opportunities for increased trade and investment," she said.

The president added that India welcomes investment from Brunei in infrastructure, telecommunications and other sectors.

"Brunei as one of the sources of crude oil supply to India has enhanced trade relations and India is ready for cooperation in upstream, midstream and downstream projects in the oil sector."

The president expressed gratefulness for the assistance and cooperation that have been extended by Brunei in India's journey to the Telemetry Tracking and Command Station of ISRO in Brunei and was happy at the interest shown by Brunei in sharing the experience and expertise in the field of Information Technology.

She emphasised that India stands ready to extend whatever assistance it can to strengthen cooperation in areas of mutual benefit, as both countries have scope for extensive cooperation in defence, training of personnel in different areas, health and capacity building among others.

The president also valued the support extended by Brunei in making India a full dialogue partner of Asean and in the ongoing India-Asean FTA negotiations, which reflects Brunei's understanding of the 'Look East' policy of India, aimed at integrating India's multifaceted relations with Asean and beyond.

India and Brunei cooperate closely on several issues in international bodies including in the UN and the Commonwealth. The president appreciated the understanding of Brunei in India's enhanced role at the United Nations, particularly its candidature for a permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and India hopes for Brunei's continuing support on this issue.

As the world is confronted with global challenges ranging from terrorism to climate change, the president said that both countries will continue to work together to tackle these challenges in the bilateral, regional and global context.

Prior to the State Banquet, His Majesty in the afternoon received in audience India's Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram; Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony; Vice President Hamid Ansari and the President of the United Progressive Alliance Party Sonia Gandhi.

His Majesty also attended a meeting and luncheon with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the latter's official residence. Before the State Banquet, His Majesty had a brief meeting with the President of India where both countries national anthems were played at the presidential palace. - Borneo Bulletin (22nd May 2008)