India hopes to sign new trade pact with UAE early next year: Dr Aman Puri

Bid to sign the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement amid plans to ramp up bilateral trade to Dh422.40 in the next five years



Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai
Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai
by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Thu 18 Nov 2021, 2:55 PM

Dr Aman Puri, Consul-General of India in Dubai and Deputy Commissioner-General for India at Expo 2020 Dubai, spoke to Khaleej Times about the record rush to the Indian pavilion in the inaugural month of the showpiece event amid plans to ramp up the bilateral trade to $115 (Dh422.40) billion in the next five years.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How has the India Pavilion managed to notch up such impressive numbers in the opening month of the Expo 2020 Dubai?

We are elated to receive a tremendous response from the visitors since the inauguration of India pavilion on October 1.

India’s participation at Expo 2020 Dubai was always going to be special, given the deep bond of friendship between the two countries which is further cemented by the 3.3 million - strong Indian diaspora residing in the UAE. Besides, this is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (Measa) region.

Since the planning and inception of the idea for the India pavilion, we had always anticipated huge numbers considering the business opportunities available for collaboration and investment at the India pavilion along with the popularity of Indian culture, food and tradition across the world.

The India pavilion has celebrated important weeks in line with the Expo 2020 themes. Several sessions & conferences pertaining to the investment opportunities from the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Telangana and the Union Territory of Ladakh have been significant in garnering footfalls.

The India pavilion also witnessed an array of cultural activities during the festive season, especially Dussehra, Navratri and Diwali celebrations that attracted a substantial number of visitors as well.

How has tradition and technology blended in the Indian pavilion?

The entire pavilion is constructed in a manner to convey India’s heritage and aspirations through a blend of technology and tradition.

While the external dynamic façade of the India pavilion consisting of 600 individual kinetic panels capable of simulation signifying “India on the move” is a technological marvel, the inside of the pavilion simultaneously exhibits the rich cultural and traditional heritage of the country. Adjoining the imposing pavilion is the Plaza which uses Dholpur stone from Rajasthan and has a spinning wheel mounted on the roof.

Visitors can see the display of spiritual heritage along with the booth showcasing India’s progress in space odyssey. Similarly, one floor is devoted to India’s art, dance, and culture with gigantic LCD screens displaying the country’s cultural heritage, which is a perfect example of technology and traditions blending most beautifully.

How did you zero on the lead designer of the pavilion, Delhi-based CP Kukreja Architects, who worked with Muse, a firm based in London, on the displays and interior exhibits?

CP Kukreja Architects is one of the most well-known architectural firms in the country. They have created some of the iconic buildings across India and the Gulf Cooperation Council region with dazzling designs through innovation and sustainability.

Their efforts have been lauded at multiple national and international platforms. Hence when it came to designing the India pavilion, which is an amalgamation of technology and storytelling, they were one of the best choices.

However, the selection was based on a global tender floated by NBCC and the Union Ministry of Urban and Housing Affairs, wherein they were selected as the Principal Architects to head the design of the India pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

What are the upcoming events to be held at the Indian pavilion?

In November we are hosting a series of business and cultural activities from states like Telangana and Rajasthan. Maharashtra will also be showcased on a global pedestal. These state-specific weeks will host an array of engaging activities displaying their culture, tradition and tremendous business opportunities along with the top corporate groups from India, and the public sector companies.

Simultaneously, the India pavilion will also host the Oil and Gas and the Textile week during November, wherein a plethora of business and investment summits with a focus on creating synergies and providing opportunities to explore and accelerate trade partnerships in these sectors will be held.

Various dignitaries including Union Minister(s), Minister(s) of State, Industry Minister(s) & Chief Secretaries of these states have confirmed their participation during these events.

Explain how the India pavilion is a one-shot glimpse of India.

India is one of the oldest continuous living civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. The state-of-the-art India pavilion structure is a civilisational convergence of ancient and modern India. The imposing four-floor structure is designed to enthral anyone who walks in with India’s popular exports including yoga, ayurveda, literature, dances, arts, heritage & cuisine while simultaneously exhibiting India’s prowess in the space and technology sector.

Similarly, the participating states will also be showcasing their business, technological, and leadership strength to the world during this mega event and attract investments along with their festival celebrations and cultural engagements.

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All the programmes at the India pavilion are aligned to the Expo’s thematic calendar and include a gamut of key events including trade conferences, movie screenings, food & dance festivals and many more.

India-UAE trade was valued at close to $59 (Dh216.71) billion in 2019-20, and dipped to about $43bn (Dh157.94) last year as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both nations seek to boost trade to $100 (Dh367) billion over five years. What’s your thoughts on the bilateral trade?

India’s participation in the Expo will play a key role in making significant progress in several existing areas of cooperation between India and the UAE in addition to exploring new avenues of bilateral trade and investment partnerships to strengthen the bond between the two regions.

Both the countries have recently agreed on an ambitious plan aiming to conclude a trade negotiation by end of the year, and hope to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in the first half of 2022 to achieve over $115 (Dh422.40) billion bilateral trade in five years.

The Expo has provided Indian businesses and companies with a global platform to promote themselves and tap the markets in the region. This is an excellent opportunity for them to showcase their goods and technologies across the sectors to the clientele from UAE as well as other countries particularly the Middle East, Commonwealth of Independent (CIS) states, and Africa.

We have witnessed success in the form of investment opportunities with leading investors in the UAE. One such example is the announcement of an agreement between the Government of Karnataka and Gulf Islamic Investments (GII) to strengthen the investment ties between India and UAE by setting up an office in Bengaluru. GII’s investment approach in India is sector-agnostic and the firm plans to invest another $500m (Dh1,836.50) in India in the next three years.

Telangana week had been pivotal in showcasing the Indian women entrepreneurs from the state.

Recently, India has invited the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries to invest in the sustainable energy sectors in the country.

Apart from this, several Indian start-ups who have participated in the Innovation Hub at India Pavilion including Dhruva Space, Bellatrix have successfully raised funding from investors. Telangana-based start-up Jarsh Safety has recently inked a deal with NIA Ltd for the distribution of the world’s first air-conditioned safety helmet in the UAE and GCC markets.


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