What are the latest developments in the UAE-India bilateral relationship?
Relations between the two countries date back hundreds of years. Thus, our ties are deep, generational and emotional. The fact that we have our largest diaspora working and living here is an attestation to this fact.
Regular high-level visits over the past five years and the personal rapport between two leaders, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have helped us achieve a comprehensive strategic partnership. Our relations are on an upward trajectory and we are working to ensure that this trend continues.
Today, our relationship is truly multifaceted with deeper engagements in trade and investments, tourism, food security, science and technology, defence, counterterrorism and more. In the field of energy, our ties have moved from being a buyer-seller relationship to that of strategic interdependence with both countries investing in each other’s energy sector. There have been other significant developments in areas relating to cooperation in manpower and skill development.
India and the UAE have also been cooperating well in regional and international forums and have signed an MoU on Development Cooperation in Africa. India is also working closely with the UAE during its ongoing chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The visit of our then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Abu Dhabi in March 2019, as Guest of Honour at the OIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting, was another example of our growing cooperation, as was the conferment of the UAE’s highest civilian award, the Order of Zayed, on our Prime Minister, last August.
On our part, India has recently provided the visa-on-arrival facility to Emiratis, making the UAE the third country in the world to be extended this special facility.
You assumed office last year. What are your focus areas when it comes to strengthening relationships with the UAE?
Since our partnership has matured to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, we have not only made significant progress in several existing areas of cooperation but are also constantly exploring new opportunities.
The UAE has been a big contributor to our energy needs but more recently, our ties have morphed into a strategic partnership in energy security. We are both expanding our capacities in the field of renewable energy, especially in the field of solar, including through the International Solar Alliance.
We are also working to expand our cooperation in emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.
Another focus area shall be to work towards fulfilling the UAE’s commitment to investing $75 billion (Dh275 billion) in India.
Could you share the latest figures on the UAE’s investments in the key economic sectors in India?
At the moment, the UAE’s investments in India are estimated to be close to $13-14 billion. The UAE is the tenth largest investor in India for foreign direct investments, with investments of approximately $6.79 billion. These investments are concentrated mainly in five sectors: services, power, construction/real estate development, air transport including air freight, and hotels and tourism.
Apart from this, we are also seeing major investments by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Mubadala, DP World and others into India’s infrastructure, real estate, energy and other sectors.
In the recent past, there has been a steady increase in investments from the UAE to India in renewable energy, housing and logistics. The UAE is also the first country to be participating in our Strategic Petroleum Reserves. There are also some other major projects related to energy in the pipeline that will further strengthen our strategic interdependence. In addition, we see great potential in food security cooperation and UAE entities are expected to invest up to $7 billion in India’s food sector as part of the India-UAE food security corridor.
Indians also continue to invest in the UAE, both in businesses as well as in the realty sector.
The year 2020 is a special one for the UAE as Expo 2020 Dubai gets underway. Could you share some details on India’s participation at the event?
India will be participating in the Expo through our pavilion on a plot of more than 4,600 square metres. Our pavilion will showcase India across all three pillars of Expo — opportunity, sustainability and mobility, emphasising the massive developmental strides being made by India, our technological prowess, as well as steps taken for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. It will also highlight the five Ts of Brand India, namely talent, trade, tradition, tourism and technology. The diversity of India will be on full display through participation of various states of India and with high-quality cultural events. We will have a good presence of companies owned by Indians in the UAE, as their participation will bring out the close trade and investment partnership between India and the UAE.
The close historical, geographical and trade ties between the two countries will also be evident at the Indian pavilion.
How will Expo 2020 drive bilateral trade?
With the expected participation of more than 190 countries, Expo 2020 will be an excellent opportunity for Indian businesses and companies to promote themselves. It will be a great platform for them to explore regional and global markets. They will be able to showcase their goods and technologies across the sectors to clientele from the UAE as well as other countries, particularly from the Middle East, CIS and Africa.
Buyers in the UAE will be able to meet Indian suppliers from across sectors. Since Dubai is a major transit port, Indian businessmen will also be able to tap new sources for their supplies, which can be routed through the UAE. We plan to organise various business-to-business, government-to-government and government-to-business meetings during the Expo. I am sure that Expo 2020 will build upon the 20 per cent increase in our trade that we have seen last year and propel us to move significantly towards the $100-billion trade target set by our leadership.
Do you have anything outlined for the UAE’s Indian community in 2020?
Ours is a broad, substantive and meaningful relationship and 2020 promises to be an important year for our relations. Our partnership at the Expo is something that we are looking forward to.
Additionally, our trade councils also propose to lead sizeable delegations to various trade fairs and exhibitions to the UAE during the year.
The Indian community is the foundation of strong India-UAE ties, which is well recognised by the leaders of both countries. At the embassy and consulate, we work for and with all categories and groups of the community, but we try and focus on Indian blue-collar workers since they constitute the largest part of our diaspora, and also need maximum help.
We will ensure that the community has a big role in all our bilateral events throughout the year.
We will also continue to work closely with leading members of the Indian business community for our events to promote greater trade and investment links between India and the UAE.
Message from Vipul, Consul General of India in Dubai
“Republic Day is an occasion to celebrate our achievements and unity in diversity protected and promoted by our constitution"
I convey my greetings to all Indians living in Dubai and the northern emirates on the occasion of the Republic Day. This year, we celebrate the 71st anniversary of our constitution, which established India as a republic. The adoption and coming into force of the constitution soon after independence was a momentous occasion for India. Over the subsequent seven decades our constitution has enabled India to progress and prosper and it continues to guide us in our march forward. Republic Day is an occasion to celebrate our achievements and unity in diversity so well protected and promoted by our constitution.
I feel proud that our national days are celebrated with great vigour and enthusiasm by the more than 3.3 million Indians in the UAE. This is natural given the historic and close friendly relations between India and the UAE, which have seen exceptional growth over the past few years. The year 2020 will be a special year in our bilateral relations in view of the largest international event, Expo 2020 Dubai. Given the intrinsic link that India and Indians have with the UAE, we are all working for the grand success of the expo. The construction of Indian pavilion is proceeding at a good pace on a large plot. The Government of India has also allocated a large budget for Expo 2020 in keeping with the big profile of our relationship.
I appeal to people looking for jobs in the UAE to come on proper employment visas and not on visit visas.
We are also working towards finalising the programmes for our pavilion for the six months of expo. The events and displays at our pavilion will showcase India in all its glory. It will also highlight the various facets of the friendship between India and the UAE. Different states of India, government ministries and departments, corporate houses, businesses and community organisations will participate in the pavilion. This will bring out our diversity, development, history, culture, innovation, business acumen and spirituality.
I am sure that in 2020 and beyond trade and investment ties between India and UAE will continue to see good momentum. The consulate is committed to provide its services to the Indian community and others in a transparent and efficient manner. We have consistently maintained a timeline of two to three days for passport issuance over the past few years. Similarly, we strive to give best services such as those related to attestation, birth and death registration, marriage, repatriation of mortal remains and extending help to distressed Indian workers and others. In 2019, we helped more than 1,000 people from the Indian Community Welfare Fund. I appeal to people looking for jobs in the UAE to come on proper employment visas and not on visit visas.
I take the opportunity on the auspicious occasion of Republic Day to thank the entire UAE leadership on behalf of the Indian community for their support for India. Jai Hind.