Today we celebrate a milestone in the story of India. That India and Indians around the world are celebrating the 75th Republic Day is a testimony to the enduring idea that is India, a nation that does not know the impossible; a nation of immense diversity and yet united under the tricolour. It is an opportunity to not just reflect on India’s journey towards becoming the third-largest economy in the world, on the purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, for instance, but to also harness the country’s potential for an even brighter future.
Looking back at the achievements of India from the 74th Republic Day to date, the year gone by was as momentous as it can get. India’s G20 Presidency was the most successful among all previous editions of the G20 in terms of outcomes and was topped off by an unprecedented New Delhi Declaration based on complete consensus. India walked the talk regarding its commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with the developing world and not only organised the Voice of the Global South Summit but also played a pivotal role in the acceptance of the African Union in the G20 fold.
While Indian diplomats were hard at work, Chandrayaan–3 became the first lander–rover mission to ever land on the south pole of the Moon and it did so in its first attempt, a testimony to the growing prowess of cutting-edge and prudent technology of India. Away from home, India stood by its diaspora, evacuating them in crisis situations with Operation Ganga and Kaveri and also extended a helping hand to the international community. Whether it was emergency relief operations in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkey with Operation Dost or the cyclone relief works in Myanmar with Operation Karuna, India lived up to its ideals of Vasudhavia Kutumbakam: The world is one family.
Bilateral ties acquire new dimensions
While India engaged with partners around the world, perhaps no relationship has strengthened or achieved more in such a short span of time than the India-UAE friendship.
The UAE-India relationship is deeply rooted in historical and cultural connect, which has been nurtured over centuries by vibrant people-to-people linkages, trade and cultural exchanges. The relationship received a fillip in 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UAE, the first Indian Prime Minister to do so since 1981. Since then, the relationship has seen a sharp upward trajectory, driven by the strong bond between the leadership and the people of the two countries.
The commitment of the leadership to this special relationship can be understood from the frequent high-level exchanges. Prime Minister Modi has visited the UAE six times, and President His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has visited India four times since 2016, the most recent being earlier this month as the Chief Guest of Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2024. The outpouring of popular emotion and affection during the road show hosted by Prime Minister Modi and President Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed in Ahmedabad was a manifestation of the bond that our countries share. These exchanges signify the importance both leaders attach to the UAE-India strategic partnership driven by a deep sense of purpose to prosper together.
In February 2022, Prime Minister Modi and President Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed set out a futurist vision for India-UAE partnership, which laid down the framework for cooperation between the two countries for the coming years. The India-UAE Vision Document, jointly unveiled by the leaders, covers numerous aspects of human endeavour – from culture to commerce, diaspora to defence, education to economy, and health to hi-tech. The endeavour of both countries, since then, has been to translate this vision into reality, which will not only benefit the two countries but also ensure shared prosperity for other partners like those in Africa. While it would be impossible to list out all achievements in this relationship, certain transformative projects and agreements that have been initiated or concluded recently deserve mention.
India and the UAE signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which entered into force in May 2022. The significance of CEPA can be understood from the fact that this was the UAE’s first CEPA with any country in the world, India’s first CEPA with any country in the Middle East, and the first in more than a decade. It was even more remarkable that this wide-ranging and ambitious agreement was negotiated and concluded in just 88 days, reflecting the profound trust and the collaborative spirit between the two great nations.
The CEPA has ushered a paradigm shift in the economic and commercial relationship between India and the UAE, unlocking new avenues in bilateral trade, which has witnessed a sharp rise of more than 16 per cent from April 2022 to March 2023. The success of CEPA has spurred investments as well with the UAE becoming the fourth-largest investor in India during 2022-23. The relationship has been bolstered by even more ambitious agreements like the settlement of trade in local currencies, development of the UAE’s domestic card system based on the RuPay stack and the integration of the instant payment platforms of both countries for facilitating seamless cross-border transactions.
Another key milestone in the relationship is the establishment of the campus of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), one of India’s prestigious technology institutes, in Abu Dhabi. It will be the first-ever IIT campus in the Middle East region. This is an example of the perfect synergy in the strategies of both countries – the UAE’s endeavour to make it a global hub for education coincides with the global expansion of India’s IITs.
One of the most significant developments in the bilateral relationship in recent years is the construction of the BAPS Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi. The temple, which is expected to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi in February, will be a spiritual oasis for global harmony. Standing atop a hillock on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, the temple will be a paean to the enduring tradition of peace and tolerance as espoused by the founding fathers of India and the UAE, Mahatma Gandhi and Shaikh Zayed.
Our people are our strength. The contribution of the Indian diaspora in the rise of India is unparalleled. The vibrant and more than 3.5-million -strong Indian community in the UAE is widely recognised as the most active, conscientious and hard-working around the world and contributes to the strength of India-UAE friendship. It is only fitting that the list of Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Awardees in 2023 included an Indian from the UAE. The philanthropic work carried out by the Indian community in the UAE for Indians in India is also significant.
Once again, I wish a very happy 75th Republic Day of India to my fellow countrymen and friends of India in the UAE and around the world. ●