Indian PM Modi on historic two-day visit to UAE

Published August 17th, 2015 - 05:24 GMT

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the UAE on Sunday as he tries to strengthen the relationship with the Gulf countries and seek more investment to boost Indian economy.

The Indian prime minister was received by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Shaikh Mohammad escorted Modi to the dais where both the UAE and Indian national anthems were played and the military fired a 21-gun salute to Prime Minister Modi.

At around 6pm, he was at the Shaikh Zayed Mosque, and was expected to visit the workers' accommodation in Musaffah later in the evening. The prime minister was seen taking a selfie at the mosque.

The Indian premier arrived in Abu Dhabi just before 3pm on Sunday in the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in the past 34 years. Indira Gandhi came to the UAE in 1981.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed received Modi at the airport where an official reception was held after the visiting leader’s arrival shortly before 3pm. Shaikh Mohammad accompanied Modi to the podium as the national anthems of the two countries were played and 21 artillery shots were fired welcoming the country’s guest. 

At 3.30pm, Modi tweeted a message of gratitude for Shaikh Mohammad.

Prime Minister Modi inspected a guard of honour and then shook hands with a group of shaikhs, ministers and top officials who had come to greet him. Shaikh Mohammad shook hands with the ministers and senior officials accompanying the Indian prime minister.

Modi visited the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque at 6.30pm and ICAD, and was expected to visit workers' accommodation in Musaffah afterwards. He is also likely to hold talks with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority in order to attract investments.

Modi’s visit reaffirms a closer relationship with Gulf countries and is inviting foreign direct investment to boost India’s economy.

Arrival in Abu Dhabi

Soon after arriving, Modi tweeted in Arabic: “I highly appreciate the kind and precious gesture of Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed for welcoming me at the airport.”

The Indian Prime Minister posted a picture of himself with Shaikh Mohammad after his arrival at the airport.

“I am very optimistic about this visit. I am confident the outcomes of the visit will boost India-UAE ties,” he tweeted.

Shortly before his plane left from India en route to UAE, Modi tweeted in Arabic: “Welcome UAE, I am very optimistic regarding this visit and I am confident that this visit will enhance relations between India and the UAE.”

The high-level visit marks a centuries-old relationship between India and the UAE region which still thrives today. The UAE is India’s third largest trading partner after China and the United States. Bilateral trade between UAE and India is around $60 billion.

As part of his visit, Modi will hold discussions with Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and top business leaders in the UAE as part of his ongoing trade mission to attract billions of dollars for India’s ‘Make in India’ project launched last year following his election to the country’s top political post.

Modi’s push is buoyed by the formation by both UAE and India of a joint high-level task force in 2012 to further attract investments. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) has announced an initial allocation of $2 billion for investments in infrastructure projects in India and support for the establishment of a strategic oil reserve.

On Monday morning, Modi is scheduled to visit Masdar City, a zero-carbon city that utilises solar and other renewable sources of energy.

Later on Monday, Modi will address more than 40,000 Indian community members at Dubai Cricket Stadium.

Issues pertaining to security and terrorism are also likely to figure during the discussion with the UAE leadership as the threat from Daesh grows in the region.

An expert on Asia-Middle East relations said increased instability in Middle East at large is threatening Indian energy sources and expat workers.

“So far, like with other Gulf States, India’s relations with UAE have focused almost exclusively on commercial matters. In future, India will need to take a more strategic approach,” Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda, a visiting Fellow in Asia-Middle East Relations at Brookings Doha Centre told Gulf News.

Delegates with Modi

The Indian prime minister is accompanied by a delegation comprising of National Security Adviser Shri Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary-East Shri Anil Wadhwa, Ambassador Shri T.P. Seetharam, Joint Secretary for External Publicity Shri Vikas Swarup, Joint Secretry-Gulf Shri Thanglura Darlong, Special Protection Group Director Shri Vivek Srivastava, Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister Shri Jawed Ashraf, Private Secretary to the Prime Minister Shri Sanjeev Singla and Prime Minister's Office Director Deepak Mittal.

UAE-India ties

More than 2.6 million Indians live in the UAE and their annual remittance is estimated to be around $14 billion.

Bilateral trade between the two countries is around $60 billion, making the UAE India’s third-largest trading partner for the year 2014-15, after China and the US.

There is an estimated $8 billion UAE investment in India of which around $3.01 billion is in the form of Foreign Direct Investment.

According to experts this is a significant visit and will have number of issues on the agenda, including trade, investments, energy and security.

“So far, like with other Gulf States, India's relations with UAE have focused almost exclusively on commercial matters.  In future, India will need to take a more strategic approach,” said Dr Kadira Pethiyagoda, a visiting Fellow in Asia-Middle East Relations at Brookings Doha Centre told Gulf News.

“Increased instability in Middle East is threatening Indian energy sources and expat workers. Gulf States' strategic location on the Western perimeter of the Indian Ocean, the region India sees as its future sphere of influence.”

He said India expat workers are central to the functioning of many Gulf States including the UAE. 

“The Emirates hosts 2.6 million Indian workers, around 15-20 per cent of who are white-collar professionals. They constitute 30 per cent of the population and are the largest nationality group. This provides Delhi a strategic advantage in bilateral relations.”

By Fareed Rahman

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