Abu Dhabi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive here today on a two-day trip, packed with a string of engagements high on substance and symbolism, including talks with the leadership of world’s second largest Arab economy and an address to the Indian diaspora, which forms 30 per cent of UAE’s population.
During his visit, first by an Indian Prime Minister in 34 years, Modi will seek to enhance cooperation in energy and trade and reach out to investors to hardsell India as an attractive business destination.
Given that late Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to have visited United Arab Emirates in 1981, Modi’s trip is being seen as an opportunity to boost India-UAE ties in key areas of trade and security.
Modi, ahead of his visit, described UAE as a “valued partner”. This fact, he said, was reflected in India being UAE’s second largest trading partner, while the Arabian nation comprising seven Sheikhdoms was the third largest trading partner for the country.
The Prime Minister also lauded the immense contribution made by over 2.5 million Indians, who have made UAE their home, and said he was looking forward to meeting the large diaspora.
They remit more than USD 13 billion annually. The 2.6 million-strong Indian community constitutes nearly 30 per cent of UAE’s population.
Abu Dhabi will be the first port of call for the Prime Minister, who will hold extensive talks on Monday with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
UAE, with a sovereign wealth fund of more than USD 800 billion, was very important from investment point of view and the Prime Minister is expected to impress upon the country to invest in infrastructure sector in India.
Security is another potential area of cooperation between India and UAE, which have treaties and agreements on extradition, mutual legal assistance in criminal and civil matters, combating trafficking in narcotics, and information cooperation apart from maritime interaction.
The two are expected to discuss ways to further enhance cooperation in these areas. Apart from talks with the Crown Prince, Modi will visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a key place of worship and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture here. Constructed between 1996 and 2007, the mosque can accommodate around 40,000 people.
After visiting the mosque, the Prime Minister will fly to Dubai on 17th, where a hectic schedule would await him during a short stay of a few hours. In Dubai, he will meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, visit world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa and address the Indian community at Dubai Cricket Ground.
Modi will also travel to Masdar City, a zero carbon and hi-tech city wedded to the concept of cleaner and greener tomorrow.
Economic and commercial cooperation is a key aspect of overall bilateral relationship between the two countries. The traditionally close and friendly India-UAE ties have evolved into a significant partnership in the economic and commercial sphere.
Indians have emerged as important investors within the UAE and India as a major export destination for goods manufactured there. India-UAE trade, valued at USD 180 million per annum in the 1970s, has gone up to around USD 60 billion. India’s major imports from UAE include petroleum and petroleum products, precious metals, stones, gems and jewellery, minerals and chemicals.
The two countries have been cooperating in the defence sector too. The first meeting of Joint Committee on Security Matters had taken place here in March, 2013.
With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation in 2003, a Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) was established. The JDCC provides a platform for regular exchange of dialogue in the defence sector.