India-UAE relations set for boost as Crown Prince Mohammed comes calling
Relations between India and the United Arab Emirates are set for a boost with the visit of Abu Dhabi's Crown Price Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday evening.
The importance of this visit can be gauged from the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi, repeating the special gesture, received Prince Mohammed at the airport. The Prince, who is the heir apparent to the UAE Presidency, will be the chief guest at the Republic Day function in the capital on Thursday.
The visit has an ambitious agenda with focus on counter terror, investments and energy security.
The Ministry of External Affairs expects that both the countries will sign a plethora of Memoranda of Understanding on Defence Cooperation, strategic partnership in energy security, maritime partnership and establishing the framework for the UAE sovereign fund investments into the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF).
Security and trade cooperation
In the last few years, both the countries have witnessed unprecedented cooperation, especially in security and trade ties. This has got even more vigourous since PM Modi's 2015 visit to Abu Dhabi.
Since then, enough ground has been covered to take the bilateral relationship to the next level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Amar Sinha, the MEA's secretary, economic relations, pointed out how there had been a lot of engagements since August 2015.
"However, we are still signing an agreement which is more like an action plan, which thrashes out the idea of a strategic partnership, and brings out a concrete idea of what both sides are committed to doing," Sinha said.
Both sides held the inaugural strategic dialogue last week, in which both countries were represented by their junior foreign ministers.
Indian security agencies, with the cooperation of their UAE counterparts, have been able to extradite and deport several suspects in terror-related investigations, especially those enamoured of the toxic ideology of the ISIS/Daesh, and other crimes like counterfeiting of currency.
The UAE has also cooperated in deporting key operatives of other terror organisations like the Indian Mujahideen, a homegrown terror outfit.
"Defence and security is emerging as a new area of cooperation, based upon shared views and concerns about common threats. We are hoping that this visit would solidify the same," Sinha said, adding how both countries have been sharing intelligence on specific terror threats, and have been also cooperating on the cyber security front.
Other partnerships in the pipeline
Meanwhile, UAE, which is among India's top five sources of energy, may become a strategic partner and help in filling up one of India's strategic oil reserves, according to the MEA. The negotiations on this are said to be in the final stages.
India and the UAE are also looking at a robust defence partnership. Sinha said, without going into details, that India was seeking armaments, armoured personnel carriers and joint manufacturing opportunities like in the case of the Rafale fighter jet, where, as a part of the recent deal with France, India will manufacture some of the components. The jet is also used by the UAE armed forces.
However, Sinha said India was mostly looking at offering equipment which was indigenously manufactured, and whose intellectual property rights rested with India.
Investment in infrastructure
On the much publicised $75 billion investment by the UAE sovereign funds in India, which is yet to take off, Indian diplomats pointed out that it should not be looked as an event; rather, as a work in progress.
They said India was looking to finalise a broad umbrella arrangement, and that the money may take a while to start flowing in. A lot of work remains to be done to market Indian infrastructure projects to UAE investors. However, India is said to have pushed some railway and highway projects which it considers ripe for investment, even without the NIFF route, in October.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is sending a high-level delegation in February to firm up the partnership. It has already invested half a billion dollars in the last one year, according to the MEA.
During his three-day visit, the Crown Prince, who is accompanied by a large delegation including ministers and businessmen, will meet the Prime Minister, the Vice-President and the President, while the business delegation will stay back and attend the CII's partnership summit in Visakhapatnam on 27 January.
Edited by Shreyas Sharma