By TCN Special Correspondent,
Ahmedabad: All Muslim countries, barring Indonesia and United Arab Emirates (UAE), were conspicuous by their absence from the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit-2011(VGGIS-2011) held at Gandhinagar, 25 km from here, on January 12&13.
A much-hyped project of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the investors summit is held at every two years since 2003 to invite industrialists and investors from around the globe to invest in Gujarat, with its economy reportedly growing at the fastest rate in the country.
The Muslim countries’ absence was quite noticeable despite the fact the state government had official delegations, comprising industrialists and government officials, to several Gulf countries like Oman, Qatar, Egypt and UAE to brief investors about the summit and opportunities of investment in the state.
Besides extending invitation to these countries on behalf of Modi, the delegations had also held meetings with prominent Gulf companies like Crescent Petroleum, Emerge Invest, Abu Dhabi Investment Gate, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, M B Holding Company, Oman Oil Company, Bahwan Engineering Company, Saud Bahwan Group, Oman Zawawi Investment, Hawar Group, Zubaid Corporation and Doha Bank etc.
The state was interested in inviting the Gulf investors because a large number of them are withdrawing their investment from European countries and US owing to unfavourable political circumstances due to the developments in the last one decade.
However, neither the investors nor the governments of the Muslim countries turned up at the two-day event. Indonesia and UAE were the only Muslim countries to respond to the invitation. While a stall was set up at the summit’s exhibition hall by the Indonesian Trade Promotion Council and that too explaining the visitors about the investment opportunities in its own country, a delegation of UAE was present at the inaugural session. Modi had a one-to-one meeting with UAE delegation. But what transpired between Modi and UAE delegation is not known immediately.
However, the state government had displayed the names of several Muslim countries outside the exhibition domes showing that these countries are participating. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bangladesh, Ghana, Morocco, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Republic of Yemen, Sudan, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Dubai, Kuwait, and Palestine. But all of them are absent.
However, in 2009 summit, representatives of the Arab League comprising 22 countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Yemen and business delegation from UAE had taken part. Several trade delegations from Malaysia, Maldives, Iran, Brunei and Oman had also attended the summit.
The absence of Muslim countries from Modi-organised summit is said to be the result of some Delhi-based groups’ pressure on Muslim nations to stay away as long as Modi is in power. Modi is generally held responsible for the carnage of over 2000 Muslims (official figure is 1182) during 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the state. Muslim properties worth thousands of crores were destroyed and about five lakhs (half a million) of them were dislocated.
Social activist Anwar Mansuri says that this stigma is coming as an obstruction for Modi to play a role at the national level and become prime minister if BJP-led NDA comes to power at the centre. According to Mansuri, Modi is of late trying to befriend Muslims by inviting Muslim countries to the global trade summit. In October 2010 municipal and local bodies elections, the state Bharatiya Janata Party under him for the first time fielded a large number of Muslim candidates in the Muslim dominated areas on BJP ticket and many of them won as well.