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Published : Friday, 21 August, 2015 11:24 AM
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On August 16-17, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on a two day visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first Indian PM to do so in last 34 years. It was also his first visit to an Arab country. The visit is hailed by various foreign policy experts as highly successful.
UAE and India have close economic relations with annual bilateral trade of formidable US$60 billion. UAE is the third largest trading partner of India after China and the US while the India is the second largest trade partner of UAE. Also, UAEis host to 2.6 million Indian diaspora. Apart from economic relations, India and UAE also find converging interest on issues like terrorism, climate change, UN reforms etc. In fact, just akin to India’s Act East policy, UAE can serve as the gateway for its Act West Policy.
While agreeing to the need of cooperation in key areas like trade and investment, defence, security, maritime security and intelligence sharing, India and UAE had agreed to elevate their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. On the basis of following outcomes,PM’s visit to UAE can be hailed as highly successful -
Without accelerating the economic growth, it is virtually impossible for a developing country to improve the living standards of its population. The gross domestic savings in India have fallen to 30.6% in 2013-14 from a high of 39.8% in 2008. This was reflected in low investment rate which resulted in declining growth rates over all these years.When the gap between domestic saving and required investment is widening, it has to be filled foreign investment to ensure faster GDP growth. For that matter, UAE has assured the investments to the tune of USD75 billion in India through the establishment of the UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, which will support the building of railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors. Also,India and UAE also agreed to boost their annual trade by 60% in the next five years.
Most of the Indian cities are marred with unplanned growth which resulted in formation of slum clusters lacking even basic facilities. Apart from this, traffic, pollution, garbage disposal etc are other issues which don’t allow the Indian urban centres to come among the ranks of global world class cities. The concept of smart cities was put forward to make Indian urban centres one of the best cities in the world. One of the major reasons behind PM’s visit to Masdar city in UAE was to have a better idea about the development of smart cities in India. Masdar is the world’s first zero carbon city which relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources. It is a high-tech city and with its own Private Rapid Transit for mass intra-city transport.
Around 2.6 million Indian diaspora which includes both Hindu and Muslims is earning its livelihood in UAE. India receives remittances worth around $6 billion annually from its Gulf expatriates.Indian mission in UAE has set up an e-migrant portal to help Indian migrant workers and an online platform 'MADAD' to assist the diaspora. For the welfare of Indian diaspora, PM also announced a new scheme under which Indian expats who are in trouble can get financial help for various causes including litigations. India is also pursuing manpower and labour agreements with Gulf States to help Indian workers in the region. The UAE government has also allotted land for a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.
India and UAE agreed to strengthen defence cooperation through regular exercises, training and manufacturing of defence equipment in India.
Terrorism is an area where both India and UAE find convergence of interests. Emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is one such threat which is concern for every Asian country. As ISIS has captured a large territory in Middle East, it poses an immediate threat to UAE. India too is not immune to such threat as increasing religious extremism provides the suitable ground for such organizations to flourish. In order to thwart such threats, both India and UAE had agreed to cooperate in counter-terrorism measures and intelligence sharing.
Energy security is the most important prerequisite for the economic growth of a country in the absence of which long term growth will always remain a mirage. For that matter, UAE agreed to help India in developing strategic petroleum reserves in addition to upstream and downstream reserves in petroleum sectors.
In the last few years, India has been able to look beyond its immediate neighbours which was essential to fulfil her global ambitions. In order to be accepted as a regional power, recognition by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is something which individual national can’t deny. UAE has assured its support to India in the its bid to get a permanent membership in the UNSC.
Apart from aforesaid factors,the role of geopolitical interests in forging the bonds of friendship is second to none in the current geopolitical scenario. For instance, Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Peoples’ Republic of China have nothing in common in respect of ethnicity, religion, culture, ideology etc but animosity towards India is the only common thread which made them close friends.
When Pakistan is exposed in front of every nation in the world for its role in harbouring the terrorism, China is standing for it through every thick and thin. In the same fashion, Pakistan media also is portraying the increasing closeness between India and UAE in the backdrop of souring relations between Pakistan and UAE. Relations between UAE and Pakistan have come to a historic low after Pakistan decided to remain neutral in Yemen conflict when UAE wanted its support in fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
However, the increased closeness between India and UAE has least to do with Pakistan. In fact, it is the part of recent aggressive foreign policy measures where India is trying to give a new meaning to its foreign relations be it our neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan or regional powers like China, South Korea or small island nations like Seychelles, Mauritius etc.
The latest visit by the Indian PM also signifies that only basis of a sound foreign policy national interest. The UAE visit was not meant to silence the critics at home who said that Modi has not visited any Arab nation because of his affiliation to right wing organizations but because it was in interest of India. Apart from the geopolitical advantage, UAE is also overflowing with its oil wealth and is looking for some safe avenues to invest.
Indian establishment was successful in ensuring USD75 billion investments which is so far the largest amount promised by any country. In addition to it, intimate relations with gulf country will also help in safeguarding the interests of Indian diaspora working in gulf countries. So by any means, after Bangladesh, the visit to UAE can be called as most successful visit so far by the PM.
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