Libya seeks India’s help in democratic transition, economic rebuilding

New Delhi, May 19 (IANS) Libya’s new government, formed in 2011 after four decades of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorial rule, is keen to take India’s help in the drafting of a constitution and economic rebuilding, the Libyan envoy here has said.

“We have sought Indian support in constitution drafting. We can learn a lot from the Indian experience,” Libyan Ambassador to India Ali Al-Issawi told IANS in an interview.

He said Libya would like India’s assistance in specific areas like parliamentary system and local administrative setup.

The North African country, which witnessed a regime change last year after a powerful nationwide uprising against Gaddafi’s autocratic rule, is in the process of drafting a new constitution.

“We are building the system from scratch. I am hopeful that by the end of 2014, we will have a new constitution and a democratically elected government,” he said.

India, the world’s most populous democracy, has already offered support to Libya in drafting a new constitution and transition to a democratic system. The two countries last year signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of election conduct and management, in which India has acknowledged expertise.

Members of the new democratically elected legislature, the General National Congress, also visited India last month to witness parliamentary proceedings and learn from the Indian experience.

Al-Issawi said India could play a crucially important role in the rebuilding of the Libyan economy.

“We would like India to participate in such transitional period. There is a huge scope of investments in sectors like petrochemical, construction, manufacturing and financial services,” he said.

Several Indian companies, including the government-run Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, ONGC Videsh, Indian Oil Corporation and Oil India are engaged in upstream as well as downstream hydrocarbon projects in the North African country.

Private firms like Punj Llyod, Unitech, KEC International, Dastur Engineering, Shapoorji Pallonji Intenational and Global Steel Limited are involved in several projects in the country.

Most of these companies either stopped or suspended their works in 2010-11 when the country was passing through political turmoil.

Al-Issawi said the new regime was providing all possible assistance to Indian and other foreign firms to resume their business. He said many of the Indian workers who had returned home during the revolution were going back to Libya.

“There is great potential for cooperation between the two countries which has not been utilised yet and we should not miss this opportunity to use it for the sake of mutual benefit,” he said.

According to data available with India’s external affairs ministry, around 18,000 Indian workers were in Libya prior to the uprising. Most of them were evacuated to India in early 2011. Currently, as per official figures, nearly 2,000 Indians are engaged in Libya.

The envoy said the number of new visa seekers from India had increased sharply in the recent months.

“A lot of people are applying for visas. It includes new people as well as workers who had returned during the revolution,” he said.

According to the ambassador, Indians are seeking Libyan visas mainly for employment in the areas like engineering, medical and teaching professions.

(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at [email protected])

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