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Ahead of two-day visit, PM Modi says India wants UAE as top partner in trade, counter-terrorism

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New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday left for the UAE on a two-day visit packed with a string of engagements high on substance and symbolism, including talks with the country’s leadership and an address to the Indian diaspora.

Ahead of his talks with the Emirati leadership, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests and he wants to see the UAE as the foremost partner in trade and countering terrorism.

Noting that both India and UAE have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism, the Prime Minister said he is keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership.

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit UAE in 34 years, will have talks with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and Prime Minister of UAE, a day after his arrival here.

“We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and the UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests,” Modi said in an interview to Khaleej Times newspaper.

Noting that he has begun his regional engagement with the UAE which reflects the importance that he attaches to the country, Modi said he would like to see a truly comprehensive strategic partnership evolve between the two countries.

“I want to see the UAE as our foremost trade and investment partner. We would build regular and effective cooperation in a full range of security challenges. Our armed forces would engage with each other more. We will work together more closely in international forums and in addressing regional challenges. There are no limits to our relationship,” Modi said.

Asserting that terrorism poses a grave danger to humanity, he said all those countries who believe in humanity, must stand together without delay as it was extremely necessary to challenge the forces of terrorism.

“As far as the Indian community is concerned, the languages that are spoken in India, are all spoken in the UAE! In a manner of speaking, the UAE is a ‘Mini India’. The way the two communities work together represents a special bond,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the Indian community was not only contributing to the progress and development of the host country, but also participating in the economic development of India through their remittances.

“I have no doubt that with the overall economic reform programme in progress, they will find India an attractive, stable and secure destination for their investment and savings,” Modi added.

There are about 2.6 million Indians, who constitute nearly 30 per cent of the population of this country.

Observing that globally, between countries, it is governments which first forge close relationships, and development of people-to-people contacts follows, he said, however, in the case of the UAE, while India has close people- to-people contacts, there was a certain distance between the governments.

“I think this was a mismatch. From a diplomatic viewpoint, this just does not seem right. This must change. I am confident that my visit will be successful, and I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai for extending this kind invitation to me,” Modi said.

Asked what role India, which has good relations with all the countries in Gulf and Middle East, can play given the built up tension in the region, Modi said though India was “saddened and worried” to see violence and instability in the region it believes in principle of non-interference and he strongly believes that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries.

“India is uniquely blessed to have good relations with all countries in the region. Therefore, we are saddened and worried to see violence and instability in the region. I have always believed that regional or bilateral problems are best solved by the countries involved.

“We have often seen the consequences of outside interference. India has always abided by the principle of non-interference in other countries and has consistently supported dialogue as a means to resolve all issues.

“I strongly believe that the problems in this region can only be addressed by the collective efforts and constructive engagement of all countries. Regional peace and stability is in the interest of all.

“I always advocate this approach to every country in this region and others who have stakes here. When we have such serious problems of terrorism and extremism as we see in the region, it is incumbent upon all nations in the region to work together to address this common threat to regional stability, peace and prosperity,” he added.

He also hoped that the Iran nuclear agreement will not be a cause of instability in the region, but will start a process of consultation and cooperation in the region that will enhance mutual trust and confidence, and lead to durable peace and stability in the region.

PTI