Developments in India-UAE ties

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    In News 

    Recently ,the Prime Minister of India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) met in Abu Dhabi, where both countries vowed to “deepen and diversify” their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

    Diplomatic 

    • India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established diplomatic relations in 1972. 
      • UAE opened its Embassy in Delhi in 1972 & India opened its Embassy in Abu Dhabi in 1973.
      • The traditionally strong bilateral relations enjoyed by India & UAE received impetus with the visit of PM Modi to UAE on 16-17 August 2015 that marked the beginning of a new strategic partnership between the two countries.
      • Modi’s last visit to the UAE was in August 2019, when he received the UAE’s highest award, ‘Order of Zayed’.

    Economic & Commercial Relations

    • India and UAE have shared trade links through the centuries.
      •  Trade, which was dominated by traditional items such as dates, pearls and fishes, underwent a sharp change after the discovery of oil in the UAE (oil exports began from Abu Dhabi in 1962).
    •  The real impetus, however, started after Dubai positioned itself as a regional trading hub by the early 1990s and about the same time, the economic liberalisation process started in India.
    • Bilateral trade in FY 2021-22 was about US$ 72 billion. UAE is India’s third largest trade partner and second largest export destination.
      •  UAE’s FDI in India has increased over the past few years and currently stands at over $12 billion.

    Cultural Relations

    • The importance given to Indian culture by the UAE was further highlighted in April, 2019 when India participated as the Guest of Honour Country in Abu Dhabi International Book Fair 2019. 
    • Indian cinema/ TV / radio channels are easily available and have good viewership; major theatres/cinema halls in the UAE screen commercial Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil films. 
    • The Emirati community also participates in our annual International Day of Yoga events and various schools of yoga & meditation centres are running successfully in the UAE. 

    Technology partnerships

    • India and the UAE have signed a number of digital innovation, technology partnerships, and also plans for ISRO and UAESA to cooperate on missions like the Red Moon mission. 
    • The Emirates has offered “golden visa” residency permits for doctors, engineers, PhD scholars and specialists in high-end technology fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, virology and epidemiology, and brought over the former ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan to their space agency.

    Defence and Security Cooperation

    • Bilateral Defence Interaction between India and UAE has been steadily growing in accordance with other aspects of the bilateral relationship
    • There have been regular high level & functional level exchanges between the two countries. 
    • The ships of the Navies of both countries have regularly made port calls enhancing bilateral defence co-operation. 
    •  India and UAE signed a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2017, and hold annual defence dialogues. 
      • More recently, UAE is a key part of the Indian Ocean Region dialogue.
    • Both sides take part in military exercises with each other and there have been several Military chiefs visits.

     

    Mediation 

    • An interesting aside is the role the UAE says it has played in mediation between India and Pakistan, and over the past 3 years, Dubai has facilitated meetings between interlocutors including NSA Doval and Pakistan military officials.

    Indian Community

    • The Indian expatriate community of approximately 3.4 million is the largest ethnic community in UAE constituting roughly about 35% of the country’s population.

    Latest Developments 

    • In February 2022 both sides signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). 
      • The two leaders also issued an ambitious, forward-looking Joint Vision Statement titled, “Advancing the India and UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestones”.
      • CEPA is a significant milestone that was negotiated and finalised in just 88 days and promises to increase bilateral trade from $60 billion to $ 100 billion in five years.
      • It came into force on May 1 and has already ushered in preferential market access for 97 per cent of tariff lines accounting for 99 per cent of Indian exports to the UAE. 
    • The Dubai-based DP World and India’s National Skills Development Council signed an agreement to set up a Skill India Centre in Varanasi to train local youth in logistics, port operations and allied areas so that they can pursue overseas employment.
    • The government approved a proposal for signing a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on cooperation in the field of industries and advanced technologies.
      • The MoU envisages cooperation on a mutually beneficial basis in areas including strengthening the supply chain resilience of industries, renewable and energy efficiency, health and life sciences, space systems, artificial intelligence, standardisation, metrology, conformity assessment, accreditation, and halal certification.

    Issues /Challenges

    • Recent Turbulence in relations 
      • It is caused by the comments on Prophet Mohammed by Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal
    • Balancing geopolitics– India with Iran (also played out over Yemen) and UAE with China.
    • Energy pricing: As an OPEC country UAE is on the side of the debate, where India as a major oil consumer is arguing for a cap on prices- this has seen some heated words between oil ministers in the past
    • India and UAE are yet to renegotiate their air services agreement, which has become a thorn in ties, because the UAE wants to increase the number of flights to India and the number of destinations, but India continues to cap these to protect Indian airlines.
    • Treatment of Indian labour- this frequently flares up as Indians aren’t granted citizenship in the UAE, and conditions at Indian labour camps become a matter of concern. 
      • During the pandemic much of the labour to the gulf has had to return, and remittances are likely to be slashed in the next few years
    • Treatment of minorities in India is becoming a big issue- After the CAA protests, social media controversies, now the Hijab Ban has raised concerns in Gulf countries, and the OIC issued a very strong statement. And conversely, although very few, less than 100 Indians based in the Gulf joined ISIS, or earlier Al Qaeda, the export of radicalisation is always a concern
    • Legal Issues:
    • Legal problems have in the past dampened foreign investments from coming to India. 
      • checks and regulations are needed, better streamlining of the procedures and processes help in avoiding such problems.

    Conclusion 

    • The UAE today is India’s closest partner in the Arab world and fortunately, there is enough resilience in bilateral ties to withstand the recent convulsions.
    • India and UAE continue to forge closer partnership in these areas, building on their close and friendly relations and historical people-to-people connect. India-UAE has a strong energy partnership which is now acquiring a new focus on renewable energy.
    • It will take a sustained public diplomacy effort to further improve the relations 

    [Q] The time has come for India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build a strong contemporary relationship,Comment.