Abu Dhabi: The upcoming visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to India will add fresh momentum to the bridge of bilateral relations that go back more than a century, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE said.
“We keenly look forward to the visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to India, which comes only six months after the historic visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE,” T.P. Seetharam said. “This is a visit of great significance and reflects the keenness of both sides to take bilateral relations to an even higher level. It also carries forward the comprehensive strategic partnership — the level of elevated relations that the UAE and India had announced in their joint statement last year following Modi’s visit.”
Shaikh Mohammad’s official three-day visit to India starts on February 10, it was announced on Saturday.
According to the Ambassador, while the UAE and India have traditionally enjoyed great people-to-people contacts and trade relations, the bridge that has now been established is of excellent government-to-government relations. “This is a bridge we need to cross more often,” Seetharam said.
“What we always had was good relationships — trade was substantial and people-to-people contacts were excellent. The size of the Indian expat community in UAE is an indication of the relationship between both the countries at the people-to-people level. The role of such a large Indian community in shaping the UAE economy has also been acknowledged by the visionary leaders of the UAE. From that level, it has now grown to a strategic government-to-government relationship. As part of that, several new areas of cooperation have emerged,” he said.
At the end of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit last year, the UAE and India had agreed to share “responsibility to chart a new course in their partnership for the 21st century”, while noting in the joint statement that “in the past, relations between the two governments have not kept pace with the exponential growth in relations between their people or the promise of this partnership”.
On the impact of Modi’s visit last year, Seetharam said: “It was indeed a historical visit, partly because it happened after such a long gap for an Indian Prime Minister but, more importantly, because of the outcome of the visit. It raised an already existing excellent relationship to that of a comprehensive strategic partnership. Each of these components has great significance in international relations and bilateral relations between India and UAE.” There have been many exchanges of delegations since then, he said.
UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited India last September for a Joint Commission meeting, which drew up an action plan based on the objectives mentioned in the action plan, Seetharam said. “We are looking at several draft Memorandums of Understanding — some of which will take time from our side, due to the consultations with various stakeholders concerned as well as procedures of Indian law which are often very time-consuming. But that process has been set in motion — of identifying specific areas of cooperation and seeing how to implement them. We have had fruitful meetings of the UAE-India High Level Joint Task Force, the Indian ministers of finance and commerce have visited the UAE, and we are following up on every aspect of these discussions,” he said.
“The idea is to come up with concrete proposals, some of which have already happened. To give just one example, on the renewable energy front, India recently launched the International Solar Alliance in Gurgaon. This global alliance of 120 countries was announced in December at the COP21 Climate Summit. This is an alliance where we have a very strong support and participation of the UAE,” Seetharam said.
As part of their common agenda, the UAE and India also agreed last year to “denounce and oppose terrorism in all forms” and “coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims”, according to the statement.
Explaining the significance of such a partnership, Seetharam said: “You have to look around the world and also see what is happening in the neighbourhood to assess the requirements for such cooperation.”
While stressing that effective security and counter-terrorism strategies were of vital importance to both India and the UAE, he said: “Therefore there’s a natural affinity between us to work together. It’s an area where we did not work too much in the past. The fact that these areas are mentioned very prominently in the joint statement indicates a change in that area. That’s also what makes our relationship a strategic partnership. That is the outline of the cooperation and we are actively engaged in carrying it forward. These are the areas where you will see the results as they happen.”
According to Seetharam, from anti-money laundering operations to cyber security, education, space research and medical tourism, closer cooperation and active coordination between the UAE and India is now a reality, “and the results are already showing”.