Giant strides in bilateral ties
By Liza Mohd in New Delhi, India

The signing of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between Brunei Darussalam and India will pave the way towards the agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation, which will facilitate business dealings and create greater investment opportunities between both countries.

The BIPPA, which is similar to Brunei's Bilateral Investment Treaty, serves as a safety net to ensure investors from both countries are protected and also to encourage two-way trade and investment flow.

His Majesty's second State Visit to India after 1992 will have a great impact on trade and economic relations between both countries, which was progressing rather slowly since diplomatic relations were established in 1984.

A member of the Brunei delegation said India could assist the Sultanate in various sectors such as ICT, health and tourism.

"It is crucial to have close contacts and this is where cultural understanding comes into play and both countries must forge ahead with cultural interactions which have similarities. At the same time Brunei can also boost its tourism sector and increase foreign investment," the Brunei delegate said.

Brunei is set to ink a Memorandum of Understanding in Culture, Arts and Sports with India to enhance understanding between both countries and introduce the best of both cultures.

It took years for both parties to put up the four pacts in its pledge to strengthen bilateral ties, which also include intensifying India's involvement in its IT sector particularly in Brunei's interests on full implementation of the e-government with respect to specific technical and human resources aspects.

In 2003, two Indian IT companies, I-Flex and Lifetree Convergence Ltd, signed significant agreements for supplying software and related services to Bruneian companies and the involvement of Sobha Renaissance Centre in Bangalore for the past three years reflects Brunei's interest to seek India's IT expertise towards the implementation of e-government projects.

Therefore, the MoU on Cooperation in Information Communication Technology Sector will source India's help to develop ICT industries in Brunei and also harness opportunities between both countries.

And the MoU to establish a Joint Trade Committee between Brunei and India will serve to expand trade relations. Bilateral trade between Brunei has accounted for more than B$200 million for the past five years.

Meanwhile, agreement on the Operation of Telemetry Tracking and Command Station for Satellite and Launch Vehicles and for cooperation in the field of space research, science and applications will be renewed since it was signed in 1997 and executed two years after.

News reports on Brunei's agenda during His Majesty's visit to cut or minimise oil and gas import tariffs as part of the proposed India-Asean Free Trade Agreement have been widely published in the Indian media.

The tariff is set at five per cent of the total sales cost of oil imports and Brunei exports approximately two million tonnes of oil per year to India and sales to India represent more than 20 per cent of Brunei's oil exports.

However, no representatives from the Brunei delegation were able to comment on that issue.

Three MoU's and agreements between India and Brunei are scheduled to be signed today and signatories from Brunei include the Second Minister of Finance Pehin Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim; Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Pehin Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng; High Commissioner of Brunei to India Haji Sidek bin Ali and Permanent Secretary at the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Datin Paduka Maimunah Dato Elias.

His Majesty is set to fly to Bangalore on Friday where the ruler will be visiting the Parachute Regimental Training Centre to view demonstrations on para motor and combat shooting among others and will conclude the State Visit with a tour of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and luncheon hosted by the Governor of Karnataka, Rameshwar Thakur.

His Majesty will leave to Brunei on the same day. - Borneo Bulletin (22nd May 2008)