Abu Dhabi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here on Sunday on a two-day visit to the strategically- important UAE where he will seek enhanced cooperation in key areas of trade and counter-terrorism as well as promote India as an attractive investment destination.
“Hello UAE. I am very optimistic about this visit. I am confident the outcomes of the visit will boost India-UAE ties,” Modi said on his arrival. He also tweeted the message in Arabic.
The first Indian Prime Minister to visit the UAE in 34 years, Modi was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and his five brothers at the airport, in a departure from protocol. The last dignitary to be received by him was the King of Morocco in May this year.
Modi tweeted, “I deeply appreciate kind gesture of his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who received me at the airport.” The Prime Minister was also accorded a ceremonial reception at the airport.
Clearly indicating his agenda for talks with the leadership tomorrow, Modi had said in an interview to a local daily here that he wanted to see the UAE as India’s foremost partner in trade and in countering terrorism, noting that both the countries have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including extremism.
Apart from discussions with the Crown Prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Modi will also hold talks with Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum tomorrow.
“We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and 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,” he said in the interview.
Modi further said he was 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.
Apart from seeking enhanced cooperation in energy and trade, Modi will look to reach out to investors to promote India as an attractive business destination.
Visit’s focus on trade and investments is also reflected in the fact that the Prime Minister will be attending a dinner hosted in his honour by Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
ADIA has $800 billion sovereign funds and India is expected to woo it to attract investments in the infrastructure sector.
India-UAE trade, valued at $180 million (Dh 660.6 million) per annum in the 1970s, is on Sunday around $60 billion making the UAE, India’s third largest trading partner for the year 2014-15 after China and the US.
Given that late Indira Gandhi was the last Prime Minister to visit UAE in 1981, Modi’s visit is seen as an opportunity to boost India-UAE ties in key areas of trade and security.
Marvelling at the UAE’s spectacular achievements, Modi described the Gulf nation as a paradise built up in a desert with unmatched vision and remarkable skill.
“I have always thought, how this paradise could come up in a desert? What vision! What remarkable skill!” Modi said of the country.
After his arrival, Modi’s first public engagement will be to visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a key place of worship in UAE and known as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
The mosque is the third largest in the world after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia.
It is named after the founder and first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Notably, a large portion of the 2.6 million Indians in the UAE are from Bihar and many are Muslims.
Modi will also interact with Indian workers at their camps I-CAD to know the problems they face and discuss ways Indian government can help them. The I-CAD Residential Labour Camp, housing thousands of migrant labourers from the Indian subcontinent in an area spread over one square kilometre.