Arab and Indian leaders have gathered to explore how the longstanding, lucrative relationship between their countries can be further expanded at the third edition of the Arab-India Partnership Conference: Development through Trade & Investment. Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, opened the two-day conference at Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. The opening ceremony was also attended by Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy and a number of ministers of trade and industry from the Arab countries and India. The forum is being held under the patronage of UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Experts expect India-Middle East trade to increase by 34 per cent in the next year, making it one of the world’s fastest growing trade corridors. The conference has drawn government officials, business leaders and other stakeholders from India and throughout the Arab world who may contribute to this trend. It aims to facilitate a two-way flow of investment, trade and resources, with particular emphasis on bringing Indian technical expertise to Arab countries. Shaikha Lubna affirmed the UAE’s interest in knowledge transfer from India. “We’re very interested in cooperative ventures involving technology transfer and research and development to accelerate our transformation into a genuine knowledge-based digital society,” she said, noting that India has already emerged as one of the UAE’s major sources of foreign direct investment. “It would be ideal for both parties to reach a free trade agreement that can further increase and expand our bilateral foreign direct investment, which would also work on initiatives to fully optimize business and investment partnerships such as boosting the pace of our delegate visits, moving some nontariff-related barriers and expanding our trade beyond traditional exports and imports,” she added. “It was with the intention of further adding momentum to the Indian-Arab relationship that the government of India and the League of Arab States established this forum in 2008 to identify the sectors which need investment and development,” said E. Ahmed, India’s minister of state for external affairs, at the conference. “Trade between India and the Arab world increased to $144 billion in 2010. Of this, India-UAE trade alone accounts for $67 billion, which is more than 46 per cent.” This year’s conference, the first to be held in the Arab World, was organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in association with India’s Ministry of External Affairs, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the League of Arab States.