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Indian prime minister likely to visit UAE in March

Manmohan will be the first Indian PM to visit UAE in 32 years

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi:  India is looking forward to a possible visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the UAE in March 2013, a top Indian diplomat told Gulf News on Monday.

The visit of an Indian prime minister to the UAE after 32 years is likely to take place during the last week of March, said M.K. Lokesh, Indian Ambassador to the UAE.   “The formalities related to the visit are being worked out between both the nations,” he said.

Indira Gandhi’s visit to the UAE in 1981 was the last visit of an Indian prime minister to the UAE.  Asked whether the date of visit has been confirmed, the envoy said : "There is a  strong possibility about the visit and the official formalities are being worked out.”

The prime minister will be travelling to Durban in South Africa to attend the BRICS summit,  which begins on March 26. The BRICS  group comprises of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Manmohan Singh is likely to visit Abu Dhabi either on his way to Durban or while coming back to India, Lokesh said.  Asked about the agenda of his visit, the envoy said such matters cannot be confirmed at this stage.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available for comments. 

The envoy revealed that Indian prime minister’s visit to the UAE was being planned since 2009, but it did not take place due to several reasons. Singh had already visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman. The high-level official interaction between both the countries has been very active in the recent past. The former Indian President Pratibha Patil visited the UAE in 2010.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, visited New Delhi in March 2007 and 2010 March, to reinforce bilateral economic ties.

The UAE hosts about two million Indians who constitute the largest expatriate community in the UAE. India and the UAE are the largest trade partners to each other with bilateral trade reaching about $74 billion in 2012.

A senior Indian community member who attended an official function  in Dubai during the late Indian prime ministers Indira Gandhi’s visit told Gulf News that relations between both the countries improved considerably after her visit. “I expect the same impact from Manmohan Singh’s visit also,” Ram Buxani, a prominent businessman in Dubai, said.