India and the United Arab Emirates are expected to open a new chapter in their growing ties when the two sides will sign a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement during the visit of UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan who will be chief guest at the Republic Day parade on January 26 where New Delhi will display its military might and cultural and ethnic diversity at the majestic Rajpath.
The honour accorded to Sheikh Mohammed by inviting him for the Republic day function as chief guest signifies the importance India attaches to the Gulf region particularly UAE. The relationship between the two countries has witnessed an upswing and this is evident from the fact that since the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to UAE in August 2015, Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the Commander in Chief of the UAE armed forces, visited India in February last year and, in less than a year is paying another visit.
This is perhaps the first time India has invited a foreign dignitary to be the chief guest at the Republic Day function who is not a head of state. A marching contingent as well as a military band from the Emirates is also expected to participate in the Republic Day parade.
The two countries attach great importance and attention to issues of counter-terrorism, security, defence, trade and investment. Terrorism will definitely be high on the agenda of the talks during the three-day visit of Sheikh Mohammed, particularly in view of the recent killings of five UAE officials in a bombing in Kandahar in Afghanistan. India will also take this opportunity to expand counter-terrorism cooperation with UAE, once seen as a close ally of Pakistan.
Sheikh Mohammedâ€™s visit is expected to send out a strong message against terrorism. The two sides will definitely find a common ground on issue of tackling the menace of terrorism. Ahead of Sheikh Mohmmadâ€™s visit the two countries held the first meeting of their strategic dialogue on January 20 in an attempt to finalise the cooperation agreement. The meeting was co-chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar and his UAE counterpart Anwar Gargash.
The two sides are expected to sign a number of agreements including one on â€œcomprehensive strategic partnershipâ€ that encompasses all areas of bilateral ties with a thrust of security and counter-terrorism.
On the eve of the visit Gargash said in Abu Dhabi that UAEâ€™ relations with India has nothing to do with India-Pakistan tie. â€œOur strategic relationship with India is above all since India is one of the most important countries on the globe.â€
India is a rising regional power and its economy is booming. The UAE sees India as an important partner for the future. So it is only logical that this huge and commercial tie feeds into a political and strategic one that is attaining new heights. UAE and India enjoy strong bonds of friendship based on centuries old cultural, religious and economic ties and their relationship has received impetus from time-to-time with exchange of high-level visits.
The historic visit of Modi to UAE on August 16-17, 2015 marked the beginning of a new and comprehensive and strategic partnership. In the joint statement issued after the visit, both leaders agreed to work together not only to consolidate achievements in the existing areas but also to explore newer areas of cooperation.
During the Prime Ministerâ€™s visit, the two sides agreed to elevate their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. In one of the significant decisions apparently directed at Pakistan, the two sides had agreed to coordinate efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims.
They strongly denounced and opposed terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, calling on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
Within six months Sheikh Mohammed made a state visit to India, from February 10-12, 2016, and had wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest and reached a broad consensus. Several agreements including for technical cooperation in cyber space and combating cyber crime and exchange of information on trade and business opportunities were signed. The two sides reiterated their commitment to combat terrorism in all its manifestations.
India and UAE share centuries-old ties of commerce, culture and kinship. Today, the Indian community of over 2.5 million is a major part of UAEâ€™s vibrant society and its economic success.
In recent decades, UAEâ€™s economic progress has been one of the global success stories, transforming that nation into a regional leader and a thriving international centre that attracts people and business from across the world. India has emerged as one of the major world powers and its rapid growth and modernization, along with its talented human resources and large markets, make it one of the anchors of the global economy.
The dynamism of the two countries has translated into a rapidly expanding economic partnership. Both sides are striving to strengthen their growing economic and commercial ties for mutual benefits. At present India is UAEâ€™s number one trading partner with total trade pegged at USD 60 billion in 2015â€”a huge growth since the 1970s when bilateral annual trade was at USD 180 million.
With respect to oil trade, UAE was the sixth largest source of crude oil import for India in 2014-15. Moreover, UAE is the second largest export destination of India with an amount of over USD 33 billion for the year 2014-15.
Indiaâ€™s exports to UAE are well diversified and major items include petroleum products, precious metals, stones, gems and jewellery, minerals, food items, and engineering and machinery goods. Indiaâ€™s major import items from UAE include oil, copper, aluminium, ships and boats.
Today, as India accelerates economic reforms and improves its investment and business environment, and UAE becomes an increasingly advanced and diversified economy, the two countries have the potential to build a transformative economic partnership, not only for sustained prosperity of their two countries, but to also advance progress in the region and help realise the vision of an Asian Century.
UAE is at the heart of the Gulf and West Asia region and its major economic hub. India, with seven million citizens in the Gulf, also has major energy, trade and investment interests in the region.
(The writer is a former Editor of PTI. He has had a long stint as PTI correspondent for West Asia based in Dubai.)”