Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Jamal Hussain Al Zaabi, the Consul-General designate at the new UAE Consulate General in southern Indian state of Kerala, is hopeful about the prospect of further strengthening cultural ties between India and the UAE.

He expressed his interest in response to a suggestion made by T.P. Seetharam, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE.

At a reception hosted by the ambassador in honour of Al Zaabi on Sunday evening, Seetharam said a diplomatic mission’s function was not limited to issuing visas and similar documents only but involved promoting cultural ties between peoples. “Hope the UAE’s new Consul-General [in Kerala] can promote cultural relations between the UAE and India,” he said.

Asked about the Indian ambassador’s suggestion, Al Zaabi told Gulf News that he was interested in cultural relations. However, he said, he was not in a position to make any official comments about his new role as his appointment had not been officially announced by the UAE Government.

As Gulf News reported on July 5, the UAE is expected to open its new Consulate General in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, in August. Al Zaabi is expected to fly to Thiruvananthapuram by the end of this month to take up his new role. The senior diplomat was serving as the first secretary at the UAE Embassy in Hanoi in Vietnam.

The UAE Consulate in Thiruvananthapuram will be the UAE’s third diplomatic mission in India after the embassy in New Delhi and the consulate in Mumbai. The opening of the new consulate is a testimony to growing bilateral relations in all sectors.

The India-UAE trade, valued at $180 million (Dh660.6 million) per annum in the 1970s, has grown to around $60 billion (Dh220.2 billion) now, making UAE the third largest trading partner of India for the financial year 2014-15 after China and the US, according to the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. Moreover, the UAE is the second largest export destination of India with an amount of over $33 billion for the year 2014-15. For the UAE, India was the largest trading partner for the year 2014 with an amount of over $28 billion (non-oil trade).

Al Zaabi said he enjoyed a presentation at the reception about the third edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India’s largest contemporary art festival to be held in Kerala from December. The 108-day event will feature internationally reputed writers, musicians and theatre persons along with a host of visual artistes from across India and the world. Bose Krishnamachari, one of the founders of the Biennale, said the event will comprise the main art exhibition and an ancillary programme of talks, seminars, workshops, film screenings, and music sessions across a range of venues in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam.

He said the previous two events received many visitors from the UAE, including some royal family members.