Abu Dhabi: The UAE has expressed its desire to open a consulate in Kochi, the commercial capital of the Indian state of Kerala, following a request from the Indian government and initiated by the Government of Kerala, a highly placed official in the Kerala government told Gulf News yesterday.

The number of Keralites working in the UAE stands at one million out of a total of 2.5 million Indian expatriates in the country, according to statistics provided by the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi.

"The necessary official steps and announcement in this regard should come from the centre [Government of India], although Kerala government had requested the UAE to open the consulate in the state," the official said.

Official meeting

In an official meeting between Mohammad Sultan Al Owais, the UAE ambassador to India, and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Monday at the latter's office in Thiruvananthapuram, it was conveyed that Kochi would be the right place for the consulate, the official said.

The official news agency of the UAE, Wam, reported that Al Owais held talks with Chandy on bolstering economic and trade relations between the UAE and India. He also met officials at the Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the south Indian state.

Al Owais highlighted the importance the UAE attaches to relations with Kerala as nearly half of the Indian expatriates in the UAE are from Kerala. The volume of bilateral trade between UAE and India stood at $34.8 billion (Dh127.78 billion) during last year, he added.

The state official said that although the government of Kerala is keen to see the new consulate open within three months, the UAE side has said that it may take around one year, he said.

When contacted, the UAE Embassy in New Delhi and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi did not comment about the issue.

However, the Indian ambassador to the UAE told Gulf News that he is aware that the state government of Kerala has made a request to the UAE government to open a consulate in Kerala.

"I am also aware that the UAE government is actively considering the request," M.K. Lokesh said. "Informal discussions about this were held during the recent India visit of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign minister. But we [the government of India] still await a formal proposal from the UAE government in this regard," he said.