Sunjay Sudhir, Indian Ambassador to the UAE Image Credit: Supplied

As we look to India Global Forum’s third edition in the UAE, it is an opportunity to delve into the emerging global leadership of the India-UAE partnership and newer frontiers of collaboration.

India-UAE bilateral relations are at an unprecedented level. Founded on millennia-old cultural, religious, and economic ties, the relationship is multifaceted, from trade to tourism, culture to culinary. It is possible to have a limited understanding of this relationship – a net supplier-buyer of energy. Yet, the last decade has been significant, with high-level engagement between leaders creating a vision for a futuristic partnership.

This is best encapsulated in the vision statement unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It provides for a multi-faceted approach, from economics to education and skills to international cooperation. In under two years, the vision statement is becoming a reality.

Bilateral trade

With the signing of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which came into effect on 1 May 2022, new opportunities have emerged. India-UAE bilateral trade has seen significant growth, registering a year-on-year increase of 16 per cent to reach $85 billion in the April 2022-March 2023 period. The ambitions do not stop there, targeting $100 billion non-oil trade by 2030. The fastest-ever negotiated bilateral economic agreement, CEPA is symbolic of the trust between the two countries. Yet, we must recognise that these benefits are not limited to the bilateral relationship. The strategic location of the UAE as a global logistics hub will allow the CEPA open markets of Africa, Middle East, and Europe.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) on framework for settlement of transactions in local currencies signed in July 2023 during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE is another phenomenal achievement. First of its kind, it is a template for a world marred by complex geopolitical developments, creating greater possibilities for bilateral economic engagements. India and the UAE also signed an agreement for the development of UAE’s domestic card scheme based on India's RuPay debit and credit card stack. This is of immense significance – in a sector characterised by long-term oligopoly, there is now another option.

Another key area is the linkage of India-UAE payment systems and card switches. India’s United Payment Interface (UPI) has revolutionised transactions. The partnership will allow more people to enjoy the benefits of this innovation. Further, India has also engaged with BUNA, a cross-border payment system of the Arab Monetary Fund of which the UAE is a part. This will allow India-UAE linkages to transcend borders and reach the larger Arab world.

Africa collaboration

The bilateral economic relationship is taking a new form by collaborating on investments and developments in Africa. The latest is the multibillion-dollar plan to transform Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam, into a leading transportation and logistics hub. The key players are the Abu Dhabi-based logistics, industry, and trade facilitator AD Ports Group, and India’s largest integrated transport utility, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone. This is in line with the joint India-UAE vision to engage in third countries.

Another notable example was the joint healthcare mission to Tanzania and Kenya in August 2022. The public-private group focused on the establishment of a new diagnostic centre, and explored the possibility of joint action with Tanzanian government officials and local healthcare providers. The India-UAE partnership can be a game-changer for the region’s economic development and sustainable growth.

Another noteworthy aspect is engagement on plurilateral and multilateral levels. I2U2 – India, Israel, United States and UAE economic grouping – is a milestone, presenting a pragmatic and inclusive outlook. The latest achievement is the joint space venture that aims to create a “unique space-based tool” for policymakers, institutions, and entrepreneurs. This encapsulates the futuristic nature of this grouping. More importantly, this is a platform for engagement for both governments and private sector. All countries recognise the crucial benefits of this grouping for the rest of the region and Europe.

In an era where solutions to global challenges demand collective action, the invitation to the UAE to join BRICS and its entry into the SCO as a dialogue partner will help in achieving goals through collaborative efforts. The UAE has also been a stellar partner during India’s G20 Presidency.

In today’s world, the India-UAE strategic partnership stands tall. The centuries-old trade relationship has taken flight and diversified into an unbelievable expanse of opportunities, based on the principle of mutual growth and development, taking pride in each other’s successes, and creating solutions that are inclusive and have the global good in mind.

The writer is the Indian Ambassador to the UAE.

India Global Forum’s Middle East and Africa 2023: Unleashing Ambitions will be held from 26 – 29 Nov in Dubai. To know more, visit www.indiaglobalforum.com