Beyond Strategic Partnership

The President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Prime Minister Modi on his last visit to the UAE
The President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with Prime Minister Modi on his last visit to the UAE

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fourth visit in last eight years and his second trip in this term underscores the strengthening of bilateral relations between New Delhi and Abu Dhabi

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Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Tue 28 Jun 2022, 10:09 AM

The UAE is one of the three countries — the others are the United Kingdom (UK) and Sri Lanka in the neighbourhood — that India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited thrice since he assumed office on May 26, 2014, as the 15th head of state of the world’s largest democracy.

On Tuesday, PM Modi will visit the UAE for the fourth time and equal his own record of making a similar number of trips to Singapore over the last eight years. So far, he has made 64 foreign trips, including seven visits to the USA.

He has been to China, Japan, Nepal and Russia five times and France and Germany six times — the only other nations he has visited more than the UAE. However, many of the visits to some of these countries went beyond bilateral engagements, as he represented India in G-7, G-20, BRICS and SCO summits. Modi’s successive visits to the UAE is a marker for the growing bilateral ties between the two nations.

The UAE is India’s third-largest trading partner after the USA and China. Earlier this year, India and the UAE, signed a landmark Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which became operational on May 1. The deal aims to ramp up trade to $100 billion by 2030 that had reached $75 billion in 2013.

Significantly, CEPA was the first trade agreement that New Delhi signed with a major trading partner in over a decade.

The last major free trade agreement (FTA) that India had signed was with Japan in 2011. The UAE is the first among the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations that India is looking to conclude an FTA by the end of this year. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman make the rest of the GCC countries.

On August 16, 2015, PM Modi arrived in Abu Dhabi on his maiden two-day visit to the UAE. He was the first Indian PM to visit the Arab state, which is home to over 3.5 million Indians, in over three decades. The trip was packed with several business meets, interactions with Indian expatriates and visits to cultural icons of the young nation.

He visited Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which embodies Islamic arts and architecture and was built between 1994 and 2007. The architectural marvel is built with marbles brought in from across the globe, including Makrana in India. PM Modi was highly impressed with the largest hand-woven carpet in the world, where over thousands can offer prayers at the same time.

On that trip, his last stop was the Dubai Cricket Stadium, where he addressed 50,000 Indians while many more watched him on giant screens outside because of lack of space at the venue.

Modi visited the UAE for the second time on February 10-11, 2018. Several bilateral agreements and MoUs were signed during the visit.

He addressed the Indian community in Dubai Opera on February 11, where he also watched the ‘shila poojan’ ceremony of the BAPS Hindu Mandir, which is under construction and is likely to be opened in Abu Dhabi in February 2024. He also addressed the World Government Summit on the same day.

Modi visited the UAE for the third time on August 23-24 in 2019. He was honoured with the “Order of Zayed” — the UAE’s highest civilian award — in recognition of his pivotal role in building the strategic relationship between the two countries.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs inferred the symbolic significance of the award for India which was granted in the birth centenary year of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the nation. Modi joined world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who were the recipient of the award before him.

“Humbled to be conferred the ‘Order of Zayed’ a short while ago. More than an individual, this award is for India’s cultural ethos and is dedicated to 130 crore Indians. I thank the UAE Government for this honour,” Modi tweeted later.

On Tuesday, the Indian PM will travel to the UAE on his way back home from the G-7 summit in Germany to pay his condolences on the passing away of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former president, on May 14.

“On my way back to India, I will make a brief stopover in Abu Dhabi, the UAE, for a meeting with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, on June 28 (Tuesday) to convey my personal condolences on the passing away of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the former UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi,” Modi tweeted last Saturday.


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