UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj pose for photographs at the India-UAE 11th Joint Commission Meeting in New Delhi, India, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2015. Image Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE last month, India’s historic ties with the Gulf nation went to a new level with the setting up of a joint business council on Thursday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan inaugurated the India-UAE Joint Business Council after they held the 11th session of the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting for Technical and Economical Cooperation here.

Earlier, an external affairs ministry official said at the India-UAE business meet jointly organised by the ministry and the Confederation of Indian Industry that the council was set to come up.

“India and the UAE will sign an agreement later in the day for setting up a joint business council for stronger economic ties and growth of bilateral business,” said Secretary, East, Anil Wadhwa.

He also said that India is looking to attract investments to the extent of $75 billion from UAE through the mechanism of a UAE-India Investment Fund.

Pointing out that the bilateral trade of around $60 billion annually had the potential to double, UAE Minister of State Reem Ebrahim Al Hashemi said the fact that 1,000 flights per week connect both countries demonstrates the intensity of the relationship. “The UAE leadership is committed to take our bilateral relationship to a new level of strategic cooperation,” she said.

Al Hashemi also said her country was keen to invest in India in the opportunities emerging out of the government’s Make in India, Digital India and smart cities initiatives.

UAE has an important place in India’s energy security as the sixth largest import-source of crude oil in 2014-15.

Bilateral trade has grown significantly from a level of $180 million in the 1970s to around $60 billion per annum now, making the UAE India’s third-largest trading partner for 2014-15 after China and the US.

Modi’s visit also had the focus on attracting investment by the UAE’s massive oil-financed sovereign wealth fund that for Abu Dhabi is reported to be worth over $800 billion.

Making a pitch at the meet for UAE investment, Ravneet Kaur, joint secretary in the department of industrial policy and promotion, noted that while the Baseline Profitability Index of the Foreign Policy Journal has ranked India at the top among 100 countries in 2015, while the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has described India as the only major economy to increase its rate of growth.

Later in the day, industry chamber Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) announced its signing of an MoU with the Federation of UAE Chamber of Commerce and Industry “to reaffirm their joint commitment to the progressive improvement of trade, industrial and other ties” between India and the UAE.