Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations of 2017. It was also reported by The Wire that a unit of the UAE armed forces including army, navy, air force and the Presidential guard will also be marching with their Indian counterparts on the 26th January parade. This is Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s second visit to the country after February 2016. Diplomatic relations between both the countries ha drastically increased since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to the Gulf in August 2015. This is also the first time that the chief guest in the Republic Day ceremony is to be someone who is not the head of his country. Although, considering the ever growing issues in West Asia, with the radical Islamist forces on the rise, the change in political power and the promising but unpredictable partnership with the USA under President Trump and the 2.6 million Indians working in the country could be considered one of the major reasons for India’s growing interest in UAE.
Here are a few key issues that the leaders might have discussed leading up to a comprehensive strategic partnership:
Kashmir and terrorism:
It is common knowledge that Pakistan has been using the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to mobilise public opinion against India. According to IE, the UAE is a major voice in the OIC and impress upon them that the same elements involved in the terror attack on UAE diplomats in Kandahar, Afghanistan on January 10 were also responsible for the terrorist activities in Kashmir. The Indian government hopes to make the OIC understand that its recent statements go on to strengthen the hands of these terrorists and disrupt peace in the country. UAE had extended its support to India following the Uri and Pathankot attacks with a public statement saying that India must take definitive actions against the terrorists. The rise of the ISIS has also been a major concern for the UAE government.
Trade & Infrastructure: $75 billion Investment expected
India and UAE, in the last couple of years, have grown in partnership and this invitation is expected to open doors for such bilateral relations. India and the United Arab Emirates are known to have been expanding cooperation in defence, maritime security, nuclear energy among other things. It must be noted that a total of 9 agreements had been signed by both the country during Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s first visit to India in February 2016, which included serious matters such as cyber security, energy, security and cooperation in space. UAE had committed to invest $75 billion in infrastructure projects by India. India also happens to be UAE’s largest trade partner, while the UAE is India’s third largest trading partner after the US and China. According to the Wire, the business between the two countries was an approximately $59 million in the year 2014-15. Besides, UAE’s Jebel Ali Free Zone houses over 800 Indian companies. Besides, the Expo-2022, which happens to be third largest global event after the Olympics will be organised in Dubai and is expected to open many doors for
The UAE is responsible for 8% of India’s oil imports and was India’s 5th largest crude oil supplier in 2015-16. In the financial year 2016-17, Abu Dhabi is reported to have been having plans of importing 2.5 million tonnes more than what it had purchased in 2016. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company has also agreed to store crude oil in India’s maiden strategic storage facility and give two-thirds of the oil for free to India.
Space and Defence:
In February 2016, during the crown prince’s visit to India, certain agreements had been made between both countries to improve cooperation by the engagement of joint defence exercises. India took the relationship ahead and on January 18, 2017, approved a bilateral deal on maritime education and training. India is also to extend all the help to the UAE for achieving its Mars Mission in 2025.
The crown prince’s visit to India will not only strengthen the existing ties and agreements between both the countries but is also expected to introduce various other methods of strengthening bilateral and strategic cooperations. During the prince’s last visit to India, PM Modi had tweeted that the meeting had added “new vigour and momentum” to the friendship. This visit will hopefully seal all the ties and would be the beginning of a comprehensive strategic partnership.