UAE and India redefine power of partnership
The rousing reception for Modi in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is proof the two nations are natural partners, or allies in a rapidly changing, but violent world.
The UAE and India have redefined partnership during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the country. They are at a comfortable stage in their relationship that we would not be going too far to say an economic and strategic alliance is in the works. The rousing reception for Modi in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is proof the two nations are natural partners, or allies in a rapidly changing, but violent world. Strategically, New Delhi envisages a larger role for the UAE in Asian and global affairs, and views it as an ideal foil against terrorism.
There's synergy of power, purpose and potential, as Modi described it. This is a relationship that has been built on respect and mutual trust, which can now serve the strategic interests of both emerging nations. But three decades are a long time and the Indian PM realises that there is much catching up to do in all spheres of this partnership.
Modi's high-profile visit officially puts ties with the UAE on a pedestal, so to speak. It's a special bond that both countries wish to nourish for the benefit of their people. Some 2.6 million Indians live and flourish in the UAE. They have benefited from liberal economic policies of the government and remit money home. It has been a mutually beneficial relationship thus far, and leaders of both countries know why it is important to keep the momentum going, while branching out into avenues for deeper, meaningful cooperation.
This could include security and defence partnerships. India, a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has maintained close links with both Russia and the United States, while pursuing its own national policies. Its secular credentials also draw it closer to the UAE, a land which has been an oasis of tolerance, a sea of calm, as tumults raged on all sides. Why else would the UAE allocate land for a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi during the Indian PM's visit?
The UAE can gain from rapid strides made by India in space and software as it seeks to grow into a knowledge economy. The Indian Prime Minister is keen that the UAE invests more in his country - in sectors like tourism, infrastructure, tourism and retail. 'Prosperity should be shared', is the mantra. UAE companies can, therefore, 'Make in India' and Indian firms can 'Make in the UAE'. There are opportunities to grow together and joint investments propel the powerhouses. In this regard, the two countries have agreed to set up a joint $75 billion investment fund to boost infrastructure projects.
India, the world's largest democracy, had a stable government when former prime minister Indira Gandhi visited in 1981, but could not shed the socialist tag back then, which held back its growth. Modi's visit, on the other hand, is shorn of economic ideology - if one ignores his rightist political leanings. The prime minister lugs some past baggage as successive governments in New Delhi failed to elucidate their foreign policy vis-a-vis the UAE and other Gulf states. Policy hangover aside, the current Indian government is better positioned to move ahead with reform in all sectors. Which is why progressive countries like the UAE will get pride of place as New Delhi rejigs its economic priorities for youth and industry.
Enterprising economies like the UAE fit perfectly with the Indian plans for sustainable growth. New Delhi also realises it can play a neutral role in the Middle East with its soft power. His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said New Delhi could play a key role in resolving regional issues, a sign that the UAE recognises India as a country it can rely on in times of need in the Middle East. One reason why it said it backs India's candidature for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. For India, the UAE is not just an Arab or Gulf player, it is an Asian power - a recognition of its growing influence beyond the region.