Our Passage to India

As India and Jordan mark 65 years of relations this month, New Delhi’s ambassador to the Kingdom hopes political and economic ties between the two countries will grow even deeper.

By Jane Hosking

This month marks 65 years since the start of relations between Jordan and India. The anniversary is being used to highlight the partnership between the Kingdom and India, which is set to become the world’s fastest growing economy in two years according to recent projections by the International Monetary Fund. Last year, bilateral trade between the two countries reached around $1.6 billion, making India Jordan’s fourth largest trading partner. India is particularly important to Jordan’s chemical industry, as it imports around 65 percent of the Kingdom’s total phosphate production.

Anil Trigunayat, India’s ambassador to Jordan, said his country will continue to look to Jordan to supply phosphates for its huge agricultural sector, and aims to boost cooperation and investment in other sectors such as ICT.

What draws Indian companies to Jordan?

Jordan has a special geopolitical advantage for our businesses, and being a secure, stable, and well-connected regional hub adds to its comparative advantage. Since it has a free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, many Indian companies, especially in the area of garments and textiles, decided to set up their production facilities here to access the major Western markets. Right now we have about two dozen Indian production units that are located in the special economic and industrial zones across Jordan. They not only produce in Jordan, but also employ thousands of Jordanians, bring in investments of over $250 million, and play an important role in enhancing the exports of Jordan as well.

India is one of the world’s biggest consumers of phosphates. How important a supplier is Jordan to you?

Many other countries are also producing and competing to sell. But Jordan’s phosphate is good quality and is more suitable for us. We have recently commissioned the second joint venture between Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO) and Jordan Phosphate Mines Company (JPMC) with an investment of over $850 million for producing phosphoric acid in the southern part of Jordan. The project is expected to utilize 1.8 million tons of phosphate annually and would earn $300 million in export revenues for Jordan every year. We are also looking at setting up another plant for which an MoU between Gujarat Narmada Fertilizer Company and JPMC has already been signed. In India, agriculture is very important as we need to provide for more than 1.2 billion people and therefore we need phosphate for producing fertilizer. India will therefore remain the main importer of Jordanian phosphate.

The figures of Indian exports to Jordan indicated a significant increase over 2014. Do you expect that this growth will continue?

I am happy to see the growth in bilateral trade which is always a two way street. Since 2013 we have seen greater percentage growths. But I don’t know whether it will continue or not because Jordan is also acting as a transit hub and this means that companies in Jordan also import from India for other countries in the region, especially Syria and Iraq. If the problems persist in the region then there may not be such a vigorous growth. It is quite likely that it will flatten out.

The ICT sector in both India and Jordan is very strong. Do you see any room for greater cooperation in this area in the future?

I believe we can use and expand the available expertise in both countries by exploiting the opportunities not only available in India and Jordan but jointly in the Middle East region. I am happy that several Jordanian companies have already got strategic partnerships with their Indian counterparts in software development and ICT. To further identify and institutionalize the cooperation in this area we’re currently discussing an MoU with the Jordanian government for meaningful exchanges and collaboration. Given the ever-recurring security breaches and issues, which are a global problem, I believe that cyber security is one area where we can work together.

Also, assistance in capacity building is our forte and we believe in sharing our experience and expertise, so India is providing training opportunities for candidates from over 150 countries across 200 training programs run by over 50 prominent institutes across the country. The majority of these scholarships are funded by us and there are 30 scholarships for Jordan each year. These training programs range from two weeks to two years and they’re in the ICT sector, the SMEs, banking, finance, and engineering.

What room for growth do you see in the relationship between the two countries and how do you think this can be achieved?

I would say that Jordan’s potential needs to be brought to the notice of Indian industries more because Indian investors are increasingly going abroad to invest so there can always be more opportunities here. At the two major trade fairs here, INTER-BUILD and JIMEX, Indian delegations were the largest in 2014. This shows that Indian businessmen do have a lot of interest in Jordan and they are coming here both for trade and investment purposes. Similarly, India has recently launched a ‘Make in India’ campaign and I am striving to encourage Jordanian companies to take advantage of India’s competitive edge and gigantic market size. Already a few companies like Hikma and Dar Group have been working in India for years. We are also looking for potential opportunities in renewable energy and shale oil among other things.