A three-decade-old dream comes true

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A three-decade-old dream comes true

Modi's visit gives a new meaning to the Indo-UAE relationship as our leaders reiterate the long-standing bonds of friendship between two of the world's fastest growing economies.

By Dr Ravi Pillai

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Published: Sun 16 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 17 Aug 2015, 9:24 AM

Indians across the uae are eagerly anticipating Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the Gulf state on Sunday, which marks the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister since Indira Gandhi in 1981. In the last three decades, relations between the UAE and India have not only grown but also flourished. Many expect this trip will further boost bilateral agreements between the two countries and stimulate trade, investment and cultural ties.
The cornerstone of the India-UAE relationship is its longstanding ties, which date back 5,000 years ago when trading began across the Arabian Sea. But it was only in the 18th century that a dynamic relationship was established between the two countries with new threads of prosperity and fresh designs of entrepreneurship.
The rich culture and heritage of India coupled with the greenfield development and growing business opportunities in the UAE enabled the two countries to start maritime trading. People from India travelled extensively to the UAE and the region to trade in pearls, spices, dates, cotton, textiles and grains. These business dealings soon turned into a much more substantial human relationships and networks, which have stood the test of time and made India one of UAE's largest trading partners.
There are several prominent UAE family businesses which started their operations decades ago with dual headquarters in Dubai and Mumbai. In fact, the Heritage Museums in the Shindagha area in Dubai display the old Indian currencies which were used in the UAE, before the dirham was introduced.
It is this unique relationship - built on the foundations of rich cultural ties - coupled with healthy trade that has evolved into a strong alliance over the years. During the period of 2014-'15, trade between India and the UAE crossed a staggering $59 billion.
I vividly remember Gandhi's visit to the UAE. I admired the UAE's ability to create a diverse culture that welcomed everyone, from the man on the street to first-generation businessmen like me. At that time, Dubai's status as a vibrant business hub was just beginning to take shape. Gandhi's visit was a testimony to its growing importance for both India and the UAE.
It's the fulfillment of a long-standing dream of Indians who live in the UAE to bridge the three-decade-old gap since the last Indian premier's visit. The UAE is on an upward trajectory, as is India, and I believe the two countries have a bright future. The UAE is home to over 2.6 million Indians, employed across lower, middle and top management levels, and has a dynamic Indian business community. The Indian government would do well to remember that the UAE is home to the world's largest population of Indian diaspora.
The last decade has seen thousands of Indian businessmen and women, investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs come to the UAE, making it much more than an affordable source of labour. Today, the Indian business community plays an important role in contributing to the growth of the UAE and is a force to be reckoned with.
The UAE's spirit of entreprenruship coupled with its political stability and status as an international business hub make it a preferred investment destination for Indians, both individuals as well as business houses.
In addition to real estate, I, like many other businessmen, have been able to establish multi-sector businesses in retail, hospitality, construction, media, education and oil and gas either through joint ventures in the mainland or in freehold zones of the UAE. This has allowed for a further strengthening of ties between the Indian and Emirati people.
Prime Minister Modi's visit gives a new meaning to the Indo-UAE relationship as our leaders reiterate the long-standing bonds of friendship between two of the world's fastest growing economies. Our dynamic prime minister would do well to remember that 34 years is a long time for India to have expressed its solidarity to the UAE. In spite of this, relations have continued to thrive. Imagine what more can be achieved if we don't have to wait another three decades?
It also marks a chance for the Indian business community in the UAE to discuss opportunities and challenges in the years ahead and for us to better understand how to cooperate more closely with our counterparts in India.
The writer is chairman of RP Group. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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