As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares to visit the UAE this weekend – his second in less than three years – Gulf News Hub Editor Chiranjib Sengupta joins a UAE media delegation on a brief tour of India this week.
Follow our live coverage as we bring you the updates on UAE-India relations, breaking announcements, the odd news and the sights and sounds of India.
Modi will arrive in the UAE on Saturday, February 10, from Palestine, which will be the first visit to Palestine by an Indian prime minister, and on February 11, he will leave for Oman to conclude his four-day tour of the region.
Day 6: New Delhi
February 9, 2018
PM Modi to start historic tour
It’s a bright and sunny morning in Delhi today, capping a whirlwind five days since we landed in Bengaluru on Sunday - ISRO, Infosys, the UAE Embassy, Indian parliament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Apollo Hospital and meetings with ministers aplenty...
But now as we head back to Dubai, the focus moves to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leaves on a historic four-day tour of three nations in a few hours from now.
Historic because this is the first time an Indian prime minister will visit Palestine.
Historic because this is the second time Modi will visit the UAE - which no other prime minister has done before.
In UAE, I will hold talks with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. @HHShkMohd @MohamedBinZayed— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 8, 2018
There will be interactions with leading UAE and Arab CEOs in Dubai on the vast economic opportunities in India and what more can be done together to increase business collaboration.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 8, 2018
A set of agreements are scheduled to be signed between the UAE and India tomorrow, after Modi arrives in Abu Dhabi in the evening. And with a packed schedule of speeches, community events and meetings with the UAE leadership, it will indeed be a busy two days for Modi in UAE.
Day 5: Delhi
A visit to the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry
Gulf News is at the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry for a quick interaction with Suresh Prabhu, the current minister.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has agreed to set up an India desk and an India office to Speed up the pace of investments from the UAE to India, the Indian minister of commerce and industry said Thursday.
“This is unprecedented since ADIA usually operates in a country-neutral fashion,” Suresh Prabhu said, adding that this was a result of both UAE and India’s relentless efforts to take bilateral trade to new heights.
Prabhu was speaking to a UAE media team at his office in New Delhi ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country on Saturday.
Day 4: Delhi
We are now at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), one of independent India’s oldest and top academic institutions.
Spread over a sprawling 1,019 acres and traditionally a bastion of socialist thought, the JNU campus recently became a flashpoint of student politics - reflecting the changing mores of India.
Bonding over Biriyani
Before the serious business of the day begins, a team lunch with other members of the UAE media - in Chanakyapuri, the heart of New Delhi’s diplomatic district.
It has been a very hectic three days ever since we landed in Bengaluru, so any time to catch up with fellow journalists and editors is always a welcome opportunity!
Below is the live air pollution statistics for today, by the US Embassy in New Delhi.
According to the WHO, India has the world's highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma, while poor air quality irreversibly damages the lungs of 50 per cent of all children in the Indian capital.
As frightening as that is, life goes on in Delhi. The morning fog and haze has now cleared the way for a sunny and windy day ahead - greatly enjoyable when you ignore the air quality.
The Indian government has announced a special scheme to address the alarming rise in pollution in and around the national capital in its latest annual budget - but will it be effective? Only time will tell, and it’s running out fast!
Day 3: Bye Bangalore; onwards to Delhi
Delhi: UAE and India to sign between 12-14 agreements during Modi’s visit, said UAE Ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna. He addressed media at the UAE embassy in New Delhi.
Speaking on a range of issues, Al Banna told Gulf News that bilateral flights between India and UAE had already reached its full capacity. The UAE had already raised the issue of renegotiation of the bilateral agreement with India, he said. There are 1076 weekly flights between India and UAE as of now, he added.
UAE Ambassador to India talks about aviation cooperation between the two countries
UAE ambassador to India talks about UAE-India cooperation on anti-terrorism.
Watch: It is also under consideration to allow all UAE nationals to be exempt from requiring a visa to enter India, he said.
Discussing aviation cooperation:
WATCH: UAE Ambassador to India talks about bilateral flights
We're in Delhi now!
A visit to the Akshardham Temple
With an emphasis on architecture, the Akshardham Temple or Swaminarayan Akshardham, displays millennia of traditional Hindu and Indian culture and spirituality.
So it’s bye bye Bangalore this morning, after an eventful day at the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) and Infosys yesterday. And for a change, we are not complaining of the Bengaluru traffic. Not on this bright and sunny morning.
Dr Satish Dhawan set up the current Isro headquarters campus in close proximity to the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru.
Pictured: With the chairman of Isro, Dr K Sivan - an incredibly genial and humble man. Hailing from Chennai, he is the first graduate from his family. Popularly known as India’s Rocket Man, it has been a long journey for him to the helm.
With a quiet charm and spartan but sparkling clean set up, Isro doesn’t exude the glamour of Nasa or the two other counterparts around the world who have successfully sent an orbiter to Mars.
And quaint and charming it is - from the wonderfully warm people all around to the thick creamy tea served in white porcelain cups to the spicy rasam (a south Indian curry) served for lunch to the old-world towels hanging in the restroom! But this is where the greatest of minds in Indian space research dared to dream big and succeed in their quest for out-of-the-world discoveries, so why bother with life’s trifle details?
The headquarters of Infosys is a study in contrast: glitzy, sophisticated and exuding an aura of liberating elegance - a behemoth at peace with its gigantic stature in the world of IT and software. Together, both Isro and Infosys represent today’s India: brash and restrained at once, focusing on delivering world-class technology in their unique way.
But it’s bye bye Bengaluru. Delhi, here we come!
Day 2: We are at Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation)
India will offer its significant expertise gained after successfully launching a Mars Mission in 2013 to the UAE, which plans to launch its own Mars orbiter called Hope in 2020, Dr Sivan, current Isro chairman, said.
"Other areas of cooperation between UAE and India in space science include help with satellite navigation and benefiting from India’s indigenous GAGAN (GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation) satellite navigation system", he said.
The headquarters of Indian Space Research Organisation in Bengaluru
“It is a pleasure to work with the UAE for peaceful space exploration. Cooperation between the two nations has been growing since the space MoU signed with the UAE Space Agency in 2016. The successful launch of the UAE’s very own Nayef-1 as part of a record 104 nano-satellites from India was a recent high point in our joint efforts,” Dr Sivan said.
Possible areas for the UAE-India working group on space science include help with satellite based search and rescue missions, whether for missing fishermen or for maritime security, under the ambit of the COSPAS-SARSAT agreement, said Dr PG Divakar, space science secretary at Isro.
Indian space technology is attractive to the UAE and other nations exploring the frontiers of space due to its robust yet flexible systems and cost-effectiveness, he said. Isro could also help facilitate the training of Emirati space scientists, he said. “Such collaboration will only help make India-UAE relations stronger,” Dr Sivan said.
On the UAE’s plan to build a colony in Mars by 2171, Dr Sivan said: “I’m very happy to see the UAE’s great vision for the future. In India, Dr Vikram Sarabhai has a similar vision 50 years ago - and today at Isro we are reaping the results of that vision. The UAE’s Mars Mission is a great and a very necessary idea.”
As the UAE and India work together on technology cooperation and boosting investments in the IT sector, it is companies such as Infosys that will play a key role in the endeavour. Based in Bengaluru, the tech hub of India, Infosys is the second-largest Indian IT company and the 596th largest public company in the world in terms of revenue.
Inside the Infosys headquarters: Co-founders Dr NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani have been the guiding lights of Infosys - in multiple stints. Nilekani is now back in the helm as the chairman, steering the company out of its recent management turbulence.
Several banks in the UAE use Finacle, Infosys-patented banking software. In addition, the software is also used in the countries by its clients. Infosys is also responsible for first remittance Blockchain between India and the UAE, through its client Emirates NBD, helping reduce the transaction time to as little as 36 seconds.
Day 1: Modi is everywhere in Bengaluru
At first it was the threat of a citywide strike and deserted streets of Bengaluru (fondly called Bangalore earlier) that threatened our touchdown at the south Indian city on the first day of our trip to India today.
But then the event that threw us off track turned out to be exactly the opposite. Narendra Modi is everywhere in the city today.
The Indian Prime Minister smiles at you from every nook and corner of Bangalore. The highways, bridges and bylanes are all crammed with his posters, placards and his Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) fluttering flags.
For Modi is in Bangalore today, addressing a public rally at the Palace Grounds in the heart of the city - for which 3,000 policemen and a gigantic number of traffic restrictions have been deployed across the city.
The entrance to Palace Grounds - where a massive security cordon is in place for Modi’s rally
It's axiomatic, therefore, that traffic has come to a crawl along the arterial Airport Road and other highways. This, in a city that prides itself on its patient endurance of daily traffic.
Our driver, though, seemed to relish the prospect of his more unfortunate colleagues ferrying some of our other delegation members from the airport in the late afternoon - when the road will be completely closed due to Modi's rally!
Earlier, a petition for a planned Sunday shutdown of Bangalore by Kannada Okkuta was thrown out by the Karnataka High Court - so thankfully we were spared the spectre of a car-free Bengaluru today.
This Sunday, Modi talks about development and domestic politics in the state of Karnataka, where the BJP is eyeing a return to power in assembly elections due by May.
But next Sunday, he dons a new avatar - as the keynote speaker at the 6th World Government Summit in Dubai, where he is expected to dwell on India's advancements in space science as well as its record as the world's fastest growing large economy.
Between this Sunday and the next, watch this space for more updates, videos and stories as they happen.
Modi visits the UAE in a week
Warm relations between the UAE and India go back by centuries – but they seem to be enjoying an unprecedented momentum with four high-level visits between the two countries in the last three years.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the keynote speaker at the sixth World Government Summit in Dubai this weekend on February 11, along with other official and community engagements. His second visit to the UAE follows a two-day state visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai in August 2015.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, subsequently visited India twice – on a state visit in February 2016 and as the chief guest of the Indian Republic Day celebrations in January 2017.
When Modi last visited the UAE in August 2015, he was welcomed by more than 50,000 expats from the robust non-resident Indian (NRI) community at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Similarly, when Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed visited New Delhi last year to witness the proud march of Emirati troops on Republic Day, the Indian capital was decked up in UAE flags and his portraits adorned key highways. Both the UAE and India will aim to build on that momentum to take the relationship to what Indian ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri has called a “golden era” in bilateral ties. India’s participation at the World Government Summit is a clear testimony of that.
Announcing the agenda for the summit, Mohammad Al Gergawi, UAE Minister for Cabinet Affairs and chairman of the summit, had earlier said that India carries exceptional experiences worthy of being global models to follow. “India has played a great role in space, IT, digital revolution and in producing the best human resources from around the world. We expect India to achieve a great economic and development momentum and be on a par with the world’s top countries,” Gergawi said.
During Modi’s visit, the UAE and India will also look to strengthen bilateral bonds in trade and commerce, space exploration, education and energy security.