Surat If all goes well and if direct flights are established between Dubai and Surat in India, then the two cities together can take the world of diamonds by storm.
An 11-member delegation of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), including its chairman Abdul Rahman Saif Al Ghurair, and top business leaders visited Surat, India's eighth largest city and the world's largest producer of polished diamonds, between April 17 and 20.
The delegation was hosted by the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) in a one-of-a-kind meeting in which both parties highlighted the huge potential of bilateral business and investment opportunities, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to consolidate the relationship.
On paper it might look like just another MoU, but it has the potential to make Dubai the world's biggest diamond trading hub and at the same time give Surat direct access to the world, bypassing Mumbai.
"Dubai could be a gateway for Surat-based businessmen and we came here to explore the ways to make this a reality. Both parties see great benefit in working with each other but there is one major obstacle in the way, which is lack of direct air connectivity between the two countries.
"We will try to bring this up at government level and I'm sure SGCCI members will also work on getting this obstacle out of the way," said Al Ghurair, speaking to Gulf News in Surat.
He added that the trade mission, which is in line with the Dubai Chamber's initiative to explore new and emerging markets while building bridges of cooperation for its members, aimed to enhance the competitiveness of Dubai businesses in lucrative markets of the world.
Stressing the most promising sectors of Surat which are diamonds, gold trading and manufacturing and textiles, he said that these are important sectors for Dubai traders in light of the emirate's strategic location serving as a major transit route for these products and goods going to all parts of the world.
India is already the UAE's biggest trading partner, and the UAE's foreign direct investment in India stands at $1.9 billion (Dh6.9 billion.)
However, what is more important is that a significant majority of the goods exchanged between the two countries originates from Surat.
Added to that is the fact that nearly 50 per cent of the synthetic as well as natural fabric reaching Dubai comes from Surat, while more than half of the diamonds traded in Dubai's markets are polished and cut in Surat.
"With such a huge percentage of goods reaching Dubai originating from Surat, it makes sense that the Dubai delegation is visiting the industrial capital of Gujarat. It bodes well for both countries and I hope this will help the relationship beyond trading and hopefully we will see a lot of Dubai investments in Surat as well as other parts of India," said Sunanda Rajendran, Executive Director of the Indo-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
Rohit Mehta, the president of SGCCI, hopes the MoU will usher in a new era of business relationships between the two cities, while highlighting the need to establish direct air connectivity.
The Dubai delegation included Amit Dhamani, CEO of Dhamani Jewellers; Bharat Bhutaney, President of the Indian Business and Professional Council Dubai; Peter Meeus, Chairman of the Dubai Diamond Exchange; Esmail Akil Abbasi, Chairman of the Abbasi Group; Zayed Al Baker, Executive Director of the Dutco Balfour Beatty Group; Mahendra Patel Group Managing Director of Geap International; Dr Ram Buxani President of ITL Cosmos and Franco Bosoni Director - Commodity Services, Dubai Multi Commodities Centre Authority (DMCC).