India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.- @narendramodi/Twitter
Dubai - In just four years, the two countries have gone way past symbolism to lay the framework for a mature alliance.
Four high-level visits in four years give us an idea about the depth and dynamism of the UAE-India story. The future trajectory of this partnership is clear, and could transform the way business and politics is done in the Middle East-South Asia region that will impact the East and the West.
In just four years, the two countries have gone way past symbolism to lay the framework for a mature alliance that is aware of the realities of the day, where the world is polarised, where terrorism is fuelling long-drawn wars and intractable conflicts in the Middle East, and globalisation appears to be rushing headlong into danger with the rise of narrow nationalist outfits who are raging against immigration and open borders.
These are uncertain times for disruptive ideas in what could have been a brave new world. Sound bilateral policies and agreements encompassing different sectors are needed when dreams are dashed as outlets for employment, creativity and enterprise dry up or are being denied in the developed world. Bitter politics and braggadocio reign when countries begin turning inwards and fall victim to petty politics.
What's refreshing is that in this age of turmoil, the UAE and India are seeking to redefine and rebuild a brave new world through their relationship where talent rules and hard-work is rewarded. There is a hope when countries like them, so different, yet so similar, resolve to chart out a progressive world order and give it institutional heft with sound policies.
This is, indeed, an out-of-box approach that is spreading to every sector of their economies. Ideas are being shared, goals have been set, and implementation has begun. The two countries termed it a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to New Delhi last year, but that is being modest. Cloaked in the terminology is an impressive growth story that is more profound and diverse.
For the UAE, there is no better time than this as it partners with India, the world's seventh largest economy (it is expected to rise to fifth this year) to promote its innovative streak and prowess as it diversifies its economy to grow into the Middle East's powerhouse with global ambitions. It is looking East, and India fits the bill as a partner and purveyor in innovation. The two countries have enjoyed centuries of cultural and people contacts, trade and people-to-people movements, which makes it easy. India, on the other hand, is seeking to build and mould ties with the West, while taking its traditional friendships with Arab countries to a whole new level.
This model of international politics that can be emulated by other countries hoping to forge stronger bilateral ties premised on mutual progress. What's vital here is the intense engagement at various levels - diplomatic, business and political. This will be Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second visit to the UAE. He was here in 2015. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed visited India in 2016, and last year. The significance of these repeat official visits cannot be ignored.
Free exchange of ideas and people have made the UAE-India story stand out from the rest. In the past, ideologies, political interests and global alignments may have weighed them down. Now, there is a hurry to make up for lost time. There is convergence of thought and the speed of implementation of several projects between the two has been phenomenal. The slew of agreements and projects over the past four years stand testament to this bonhomie.
In a recent interview to Khaleej Times, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Navdeep Singh Suri, called it a 'golden era' for UAE-India ties. There's a combined urgency to push through projects, ease bottlenecks and strike more deals as the UAE diversifies its economy and India expands and grows into a major world economy. What interesting here is that by 2030, Asian economies like India will dominate the top-10 space.
According to Ahmed Al Banna, UAE Ambassador to India, 14 agreements will be signed by the two sides during Prime Minister Modi's visit. This follows the 14 signed during his first trip, 17 during Sheikh Mohamed's visit, and 14 last year. In 2017, UAE companies and entities announced $2.5 billion in investments in India, which included a $1 billion investment by Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
UAE-India trade was worth almost $53 billion a year. But this is beyond trade and let's get the figures out of the way. What's news is there's a bigger, diversified chapter in ties that cover IT, space technology, defence manufacturing, security, counter-terror cooperation, education and renewable energy. It is diverse, deep and dynamic, as we said before, and people of both the countries stand to benefit.
The brave new world that we spoke of earlier could have its origins in the UAE and India, where their pool of talent, technology and investments would drive growth in both the East and the West. Who knows, they could become the centre of an innovative global order with their combined and practical solutions for governance.