Indians at the public reception for Narendra Modi at the Dubai cricket stadium in August 2015. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News archives

Abu Dhabi: Indian expatriates in the UAE have attained the distinction of being the largest community of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in the world, a top diplomat said on Wednesday.

“On the occasion of India’s 69th Republic Day [on Friday], I want to say that what a privilege to be India’s representative with such a dynamic and diverse Indian community of 3.3 million,” Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News in an interview on Wednesday.

He quoted the figure from the 2017 International Migration Report of the International Organisation of Migrants (IOM), a UN agency.

 I want to say what a privilege it is to be India’s representative with such a dynamic and diverse Indian community of 3.3 million.”

 - Navdeep Singh Suri | Indian Ambassador 

Until recently, Indians in the UAE were estimated at 2.8 million.

The Republic Day celebrates the anniversary of adoption of the Indian Constitution on January 26, 1950 and expatriates will attend various events on Thursday and Friday across the UAE.

The envoy appreciated the role of Indian blue-collar workers, professionals and entrepreneurs in the UAE in the development of both India and the UAE.

Asked about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the UAE, Suri said the details of the bilateral interactions during the visit would be announced later by both nations. Modi will be the keynote speaker at the sixth World Government Summit, which will kick off on February 11 in Dubai. He will also visit Abu Dhabi.

The envoy said the UAE-India partnership in investments would improve lives of millions of Indians.

“We have seen an upsurge in the UAE investments in India,” he said. As the UAE’s investments in India are not a grant or loan, Suri said, they should go to commercially viable projects or channels. “That has been our focus over the past one year.”

The UAE’s investments in Indian infrastructure will help millions who toil in agriculture and small and medium enterprise sectors but unable to get their products efficiently into the markets. They will benefit from improved infrastructure.

For example, DP World’s latest announcement this week on the $3-billion (Dh11.01-billion) joint-investment fund with the India’s National Infrastructure and Investment Fund (NIIF) will invest in ports, inland waterways, river terminals, freight corridors, cold storage and warehousing, the envoy said. These are very crucial for India as transport and logistics costs are very high in the country. Inland waterways are the most cost effective and much cheaper than highways, he said.

“If they become functional, it will have a transformational impact.”

The cold storage and warehousing depots close to inland waterways will make a similar impact on the agriculture sector, Suri said.

DP World had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the NIIF in May 2017 to invest $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion) in India.

An Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) initiative may help thousands of Indians get housing. Adia along with HDFC Bank in India will invest $1 billion in affordable housing platforms.

The Adia also announced in last October an investment of $1 billion into the NIIF. Apart from Indian government’s $3 billion initial investment in the NIIF, another $3 billion foreign investment has to come for its operations’ launch. As $1 billion came from Adia as the anchor investor into the master fund of NIIF, Adia has a seat on the board of NIIF, making it a partner for “years and years”. Given Adia’s reputation as a professional and well-managed fund, its move gives a good signal to other foreign investors.

Suri said many prominent NRI business groups such as Lulu International, NMC Healthcare, and Aster have already announced multimillion dollar investments in various projects across India.