Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian Ambassador to UAE during a press conference at Indian Embassy, Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Despite having over 1,000 flights a week between India and the UAE, there is an additional demand for flights, which reflects the dynamic nature of the bilateral relationship, a top Indian diplomat told Gulf News.

“This is a huge number [1,065 flights] by any standards,” Navdeep Singh Suri, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, said in an interview on Indian Independence Day on Tuesday.

About the bilateral talks to meet the additional demand for flights that will enhance people-to-people and trade relations, he said: “We expect the talks to take place in the next few weeks and to further strengthen our relationship in this vital sector.”

A report last week by WAM, UAE’s official news agency, said that a clause in the existing Air Services Agreement mandates that when capacity on routes between the UAE and India reaches 80 per cent, new quotas to be shared between air carriers in both countries should be re-negotiated. Because of an increase in travel between India and the UAE, capacity is now running at 100 per cent of the approximately 130,000 seats per week allowed under an existing agreement, the report said.

The ambassador said an ambitious vision outlined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will make tangible progress in many different areas — from business and government to arts and culture.

“You will, for instance, see India as the Guest Country at next year’s prestigious World Government Summit in Dubai and also as the Partner Country at the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Festival in 2018. Just these two events will give you a perspective on the diverse areas in which we are forging a close partnership,” Suri said.

In the investment sector, India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) has been engaged in very substantive discussions with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).

“I look forward to a very positive announcement on this front within the next couple of weeks. In addition, NIIF has also signed an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with DP World that looks at equity investment of $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in Indian infrastructure,” the envoy said.

About the reported meeting of the UAE- India High Level Joint Task Force on Investments in September in Abu Dhabi, Suri said: “The dates are still under finalization. But I expect that during its next meeting, the Task Force will not only look at measures to facilitate additional investments from UAE to India but would also offer a number of specific projects and proposals for investment.”

Asked the progress in convening the meeting of the UAE- India Joint Commission that has not met since September 2015, Suri said: “Frankly, between the Task Force, the Strategic Dialogue, the Defence consultations and the regular Summit level meetings, there is no dearth of platforms for a meaningful dialogue.”

About the Indian community in the UAE, the ambassador said a number of Indian business groups in the UAE are today regarded as multinationals and they have also focused on improving education, healthcare and

other infrastructure in India. The blue-collar workers have, literally, helped to build this great nation even as their remittances sustain their families back home. “And in the middle the large numbers of professionals who can be seen at the top echelons of virtually every profession,” Suri said.

The embassy’s Indian Community Welfare Fund helps to meet a number of emergency requirements of Indians in distress. The Indian government has widened the ambit of the embassy’s powers to utilise the fund. “We expect that the revised guidelines for the use of this fund will enable us to widen the areas in which we can render prompt and meaningful assistance to the Indian community. We are awaiting full details of the revised guidelines,” the envoy said.

India has designed the eMigrate system aimed at promoting regulated employment overseas, checking the illegal activities of unscrupulous recruitment agents and providing an enhanced level of security to Indian workers against exploitation and contractual violations. “We are in discussion with our friends in the UAE to implement this system and there is a very wide convergence of views on the objectives of this programme,” the ambassador said.

Indians are recognised around the world for the spirit of entrepreneurship. Still he thinks the manner Indians have embraced their diversity and yet maintained their sense of national unity is truly special. “Walk into any government or corporate office, into the armed forces or the police service, the national cricket or football team and you will get a glimpse of this phenomenon.”

However, he said, there is no dearth of elements that try to foster divisions. “I believe that the Indian civilization and the Indian people have repeatedly demonstrated a resilience and a determination to overcome these challenges.”

India’s greatest achievement as a nation lies in unifying over 550 separate states, kingdoms and other political entities into one strong and stable nation-state, the top diplomat said. India has defied the odds to emerge as a strong democracy, one that is sustaining steady economic progress along with a concerted focus on inclusive growth. “In the context of the developing nations, I see India as a beacon of stability and a contributor to regional and global peace,” the ambassador said.

In numbers

  1. 1,065 flights a week between India and UAE
  2. 130,000 flight seats a week
  3. 100% capacity reached on exiting flights
  4. $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion): DP World’s expected investment in India