United Arab Emirates-India: How fostering strong economic links can help both nations

Updated: February 14, 2019 2:40:49 PM

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently at a speech in India said that India would continue to be the fastest-growing large economy, and could be the second-largest economy in the world by 2030.

It is no secret that India’s economy is strong and shows to the world its potential for further economic growth.

By: Richie Santosdiaz & Rajesh Mehta

It is no secret that India’s economy is strong and shows to the world its potential for further economic growth. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a speech said that India would continue to be the fastest-growing large economy, and could be the second-largest economy in the world by 2030.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also has a positive outlook. For those who have been to Dubai or Abu Dhabi – just seeing the impressive growth those two cities have undergone on their own right without even understanding the complexities of economic stats and sectoral analysis would also see the growth the country has been through.

And with Dubai in particular gearing up to host Dubai Expo 2020 (an expo or world’s fair is the world’s largest gathering of people), there is presently further development to get the city ready for that.

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So naturally the UAE and India would make strong economic partners. They have in the past – with back in the day trade between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region as a whole and India were strong. Before the discovery of oil when it was the pearl industry and other commodities that dominated the GCC’s economy, the Arabian Gulf and India were trading goods.

Later, when oil was discovered, which transformed the GCC into essentially what it is today, there was need to bring in workers from across all professional levels – from senior level corporate, consultants and experts, to mid-level and administration to lower-skilled – to help the region grow its economy into the developed powerhouses they now are.

With Dubai in particular, as the city was generally unique in its present economic diversification, as it did not have much oil compared to the rest of the GCC, the vision of its leaders made Dubai the now undisputed regional hub in the region as far as business (such as in sectors like tech, financial services, and general having regional MENA multinational regional office headquarters) and within sectors a global powerhouse – such as in transportation and logistics and tourism.

This growth of course attracted (and today as well) talent from across the career ladder globally – many of which coming from India.

The Non-Resident Indian (NRI) population in the UAE is estimated to be around 3.3 million – easily being the largest group in the UAE. Indians across all aspects of the career ladder have contributed heavily hand-in-hand to the growth of what the world knows as the UAE.

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For instance, in the business and entrepreneurial space – some of the UAE’s major companies are actually NRI businesses – such as Lulu International, NMC Healthcare, and Aster. These three companies have also recently announced major multimillion investment projects in India.

The UAE and India have around nearly $50 billion in bilateral trade. End of last year, both countries even inked a currency swap agreement, which allows rupee and dirham for businesses, instead of dollar.

The changes to the UAE law that were announced last year, particularly in foreign ownership and the announcement of 10-year visas to certain individuals like investors and certain professions like doctors also will make investing in the UAE more attractive for Indian businesspeople.

A prominent showcase of Indianness in the UAE, besides the examples mentioned above, is Bollywood. For instance, in Abu Dhabi’s Media Cluster, Twofour54, (where this co-author is also based), there is a rise in interest in Bollywood filming.

This was evident recently end of last year when Salman Khan returned to the UAE capital to begin production of “Bharat.” And in neighboring Dubai there is of course the Bollywood Parks Dubai, a first of its kind celebrating the Mumbai film industry in five themed zones.

Generally, there is an increase of investments from the UAE to India. For example, from an article in the Gulf News, DP World last year announced a $3-billion (Dh11.01-billion) joint-investment fund with the India’s National Infrastructure and Investment Fund (NIIF), which will invest in ports, inland waterways, river terminals, freight corridors, cold storage and warehousing.

These are very crucial for India as transport and logistics costs are very high in the country and inland waterways are the most cost effective and much cheaper than highways. DP World had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NIIF in May 2017 to invest $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in India.

India and the UAE, with a strong historical past, present close relationship definitely shares a positive bond that looks to last in the future, with an aim to benefit both countries as they continue making significant marks in the economic global stage.

Richie Santosdiaz is an economic development expert, specifically around the realm of internationalization. Rajesh Mehta is Founder/President of Entry-India,EU Gate India and Mehta Software Services (P) Ltd. The views expressed are authors’ own.

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