'Rahul Gandhi's visit is going to start a new dialogue in India-UAE relationship.'
Himanshu Vyas, General Secretary, AICC.
AICC general secretary believes that engagement with Indian diaspora will generate talks of peace and prosperity. | Dhanusha Gokulan
Published: Fri 11 Jan 2019, 4:29 PM
The UAE- India partnership is one that dates back centuries. Strong and mutually benefitting relations between the UAE and India started centuries ago by the two countries' strategic locations along global maritime trade routes.
However, a turning point in the relationship between the two countries took place in 1981 when the former Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi visited the UAE. Before this, UAE's founding father Sheikh Zayed's intent to build a long-lasting relationship with India was reflected in his historic visit to India in January 1975, wherein he signed a cultural agreement along with various other ground-breaking agreements.
Nearly 37 years later, Indira's grandson Rahul Gandhi, the current President of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the central decision-making assembly of the Indian National Congress (INC), is set to make a historic visit to the UAE. From January 11-12, the country's primary opposition leader will interact with the Indian and Arab communities in the UAE.
With various events planned in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the leader is set to meet the working community, Indian business community and students. Furthermore, a broad public is being organised at the Dubai Cricket Stadium, with expected participation from over 25,000 people. The event is titled: Gandhi 150 years: The idea of India.
Khaleej Times caught up with the general secretary of the AICC Himanshu Vyas ahead of Gandhi's visit to the UAE. He has been in Dubai since early January, preparing for the tour.
According to Vyas, since the initial announcement, there has been immense support from most major Indian community groups in the UAE. This includes active participation from groups such as the Overseas Indian Cultural Society (INCAS) and Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre (KMCC). Speaking about the expectations from the visit, Vyas said, "There is a very long, ongoing relationship that both countries share. This was established when our former PM Indira Gandhi visited in 1981," said Vyas.
He added, "Rahulji wants to engage himself with the UAE's Indian community as it is the largest one outside of India. He firmly believes that in the UAE, people are prosperous and living in peace, and he is pleased about it. Be it with labour, the student or youth communities, or the business groups, people here share a profound connection with their home."
The opposition leader has scheduled visits to a university, separate closed-door meetings with business groups in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and visit to a labour camp in Jebel Ali, Dubai.
Vyas said, "He is very keen to speak to Indian workers in the UAE. We realise that they face many troubles, especially when they get back home. They are facing issues with agents, some are not paid on time, and when they get back home, they have no jobs. We want to start talking about rehabilitation of workers. We want to discuss these issues with them, and he is going be interacting with workers in a camp in Jebel Ali."
Meanwhile, an interactive session with the business community aims to develop an idea of trade and business with a new India. The meeting with the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC) and the Indian Business Professional Group (IBPG) aims to get this conversation going, said Vyas.
The young leader is also expected to speak to the students' community at IMT in Academic City, where Rahul Gandhi will speak to the youth about their aspiration and understanding of India. He said, "There are many Indian-origin students in the UAE. India is the youngest country in the world today, and he is a leader of this era. In that sense, he wants to connect with young people, understand what's on their minds, their expectations regarding education, and future employment opportunities." He added, "He wants to listen to what the students have to say, and this session will be live telecast on Facebook."
Speaking about the challenges in organising an event of this nature, Vyas said, "We want every community to take part in the programme. The enthusiasm is palpable and online registrations are surging. The event is being organised in an entirely non-political manner and within the legal framework of the UAE. This is going to be a large programme, something that the people of the UAE have never seen before."
He added, "Every community including INCAS, KMCC, Indian associations from different states across the UAE, cultural groups, the AMU Alumni Association, Bihar and Jharkhand Associations, and a lot of other people are involved in making this a success. I believe that people all the way from Assam and Kashmir are going to participate in making this a success actively."
Vyas also said that this visit is a crucial one as there is a massive change in public opinion back home in India, and all of this would be reflected when the NRI community speaks out about their wishes from a new India. "People want change. Public opinion about the general political environment in India is changing in a great way. People want Rahul Gandhi as the next PM of India. He is an honest, loving person who believes in inclusiveness."
In a final note, Vyas said, "My message to the Indian people is simple. Our great leader is here for the people, and everyone should come with their family and friends to attend the event."