Dr Rashid Al Nuaimi, Executive Director at the National Media Council, presenting a memento to former Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shashi Tharoor in presence of Ibrahim Khadijah and Shajahan Madampat during an Interactive session on India UAE ties at Sharjah International Book Fair. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Sharjah: Indian expatriates in the UAE, whose numbers top three million, make up the world’s second-largest foreign-born population in another country, a renowned Indian author and politician said on Friday evening.

“If you look at any country in the world and look at the number of foreign-born people in that country, the record is held by 11 million Mexicans in the US; the second is the Indians in the UAE,” said Dr Shashi Tharoor, a prominent leader within India’s Congress party and a Member of Parliament.

Author of 18 books and one of the most well-known Indian writers worldwide, Tharoor was talking about all aspects of the strategic partnership between the UAE and India at an event organised by the National Media Council (NMC) at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).

The Congress politician said there was no sector of the UAE economy untouched by the presence of Indians.

Tharoor, however, made it clear that possible political changes in India would not affect the long-standing UAE-India relations.

“As the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on External Affairs, I can say that there is no Congress foreign policy or BJP [Bharathiya Janata Party] foreign policy but only an Indian foreign policy.”

Noting that strategic India-UAE relations had become crucial in recent years, Tharoor highlighted the UAE’s prominent role as a source of foreign remittances and investments to India and ties in most advanced sectors such as the India-UAE Artificial Intelligence Bridge.

Given India’s historical relations with the Middle East, Indians have contributed significantly to the economic development of the entire region.

The region provides 60 per cent of India’s crude oil imports and trade relations are worth $200 billion (Dh734 billion) annually.

Tharoor said around nine million Indian expatriates live in the Middle East, and added that the experiences of successful, risk-taking Indian businessmen in the UAE tell the story of mutual trust among people — cutting across cultural and linguistic differences. Such a diverse and large number of people live and work in a foreign land and succeed, he said.

“I must say the economic prosperity and social stability of the UAE is the most effective argument against the theory of clashes of civilisation and all other stereotypes about this part of the world,” Tharoor said.

Shajhan Madampat, an Indian writer and adviser to the NMC, who moderated the Tharoor’s speech and interaction with the audience, said the interesting thing about India-UAE ties is that the relations were decided and chosen by two peoples and the governments followed much later.

“So it is the example of Track Two [people-to-people ties] preceding Track One [government-to-government relations]. Hundreds of thousands of Indians have been living here for decades and spending their vacation only in India,” he said.