'UAE-India relationship has risen to a new level'

UAE-India relationship has risen to a new level

Abu Dhabi - Shaikh Mohammed's visit to India shows the level of political and practical investments the two countries are putting into this partnership, said T.P. Seetharam, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, in an interview to Khaleej Times.

By Allan Jacob (Opinion Editor)

Published: Sat 6 Feb 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 8 Feb 2016, 12:08 AM

Smart partnerships are all about finding the right timing and momentum. That's why it's taken just six months for His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to make a return visit to India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was here last August to give strategic depth to what was once a transactional relationship.
Shaikh Mohammed's visit to India shows the level of political and practical investments the two countries are putting into this partnership, said T.P. Seetharam, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, in an interview to Khaleej Times.
"The level of political engagement has been raised after PM Modi's visit. As the relationship rises to a new level, you need new connections," he said.
It's one thing to buy basmati rice, dates and gold, but to talk in terms of participation in a strategic petroleum reserve in India shows how much ties between the two have diversified in such a short period.

No plan for minimum wage agreement for Indian workers
There are no plans for a minimum wage agreement for Indian workers with the UAE because they have been constantly improving conditions in the country, T. P Seetharam, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, has said. "There is a conscious effort to improve living conditions of workers. Labour contracts in Indian languages and mobility under certain conditions have benefited all, and has led to greater trust. "On minimum wages, the UAE has a view, that it will be determined by the market and should not be prescribed. We respect that," said Seetharam.
Meanwhile, much has happened in the region since August 2015. Oil has hit new lows, stock markets have tanked, while conflicts are making the situation worse. In an unstable regional environment, the UAE is going full steam to diversify its economy as it moves away from oil.
In this scenario, India is the perfect fit, the first stop in the UAE's look east policy. The UAE is keen to innovate and build a knowledge economy. Indian expertise could transform the next phase of development here, while New Delhi could gain from UAE investments for its Make in India campaign.
The UAE is already a major player in the renewable energy sphere, smart cities and semiconductors, sectors which India would like to benefit from. The two countries are alike in their diversification programmes. There is common ground, which they are trying to exploit for the common good, according to Seetharam.
Things have moved rapidly since the Indian PM visited the UAE in August 2015 - interactions have increased to find practical ways to cement the relationship. UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited India for a meeting of the joint commission in September; Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was here in October. The Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley visited in November. What they did was to talk of action plans. How do you get down to it, like increasing trade by 65 per cent? How do you utilise the joint $75 billion investment fund?
"It's not only the level of interaction; the intensity of interaction and the frequency that matters," explained the Indian envoy.
So the two sides worked on concrete, marketable projects, some of it have already begun.
Take for instance space cooperation. Officials from the UAE visited the Indian Space Research Organisation last year. The UAE has planned a Mars mission by 2021; India is already orbiting the red planet. "That is engagement. That is how you translate a vision document into reality."
India is a star in the space firmament and offers affordable commercial satellite launches. This a sector which the UAE can tap.
Several Dubais in India
On February 20, Smart City Kochi will go online. Eighty per cent investment will be from Dubai. India has identified metropolises which could be turned into smart cities. "Certainly, the UAE is a good partner. Effectively, we are trying to build several Dubais in India," said the ambassador.
He said the UAE has done it here with Indian labour and investments. They have pooled their resources and skills, vision and dreams. There is synergy there for their involvement. So why not do it?
Seetharam said the UAE leadership is hearing what is happening in India; they like what hear and find it worthwhile to forge a long and enduring partnership. This does not mean they are going in with their eyes closed. But there are certain things that they cannot ignore, like 7.3 per cent growth, which puts it ahead of other economies.
The Indian PM recently launched the start up India programme, which is devoid of red tape. It's online swift and easy, an attractive investment opportunity for UAE entrepreneurs.
That's a smart system which leaves little room for bureaucratic entanglement. There's speed built into the system, something akin to the rebooted UAE-India ties, which is turning smart and effective.
Security ties to e-visas ...Here is what T. P Seetharam, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, had to say on:
> Security ties: Joint defence production is part of this comprehensive, strategic partnership. Strengthening defence ties, whether it be training, and joint exercises ... all this you will see an increase. It was also agreed (to) fight terrorism jointly, which means sharing of information. If terror is a security problem for the UAE, it is a problem for India.
> The Iran issue: Iran has come in from the cold, but Seetharam believes India and the UAE now have a 'greater rapport' to discuss issues openly. It's about balancing interests. "We manage within the framework of our ties. We do not allow that to impinge upon our bilateral partnership."
> UN Security Council: The UAE has repeatedly said they support India's bid for permanent membership in the UN Security Council. It's there in the vision document. They have said it more than once. It's not necessary they repeat it every time. It will make a difference. More countries are supporting us and from which regions is important. It's progress.
> Visas for citizens: For UAE, we have this electronic tourist visa arrangement, which means Emiratis don't need to come to an embassy or queue up anywhere. They can sit at home and apply and get an electronic document in three to four days which allows them to travel to India for tourism, medical treatment and business. We do not expect a reciprocal visa arrangement from the UAE.

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