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India - UAE cooperation (19 April 2021)

India - UAE cooperation (19 April 2021)

Context:

  • External affairs minister S Jaishankar who is on a visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) held talks with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan where the two leaders discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations, especially the strong focus on economic recovery post Covid-19.

Background:

  • The visit of PM Modi to UAE in August 2015 marked the beginning of a new strategic partnership between the two countries.

  • The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi visited India in January, 2017 as the Chief Guest at India’s Republic day celebrations.

  • It was during this visit that the bilateral relations were upgraded to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’.

Summary of the Debate

The kind of cooperation which India and UAE have shared so far:

  • The relationship between India and UAE is nearly 50 years old ever since 1972, when both countries established diplomatic relations. UAE opened its Embassy in Delhi in 1972 & India opened its Embassy in Abu Dhabi in 1973.

  • The relationship in the past five years has become truly comprehensive strategic partnership in many ways.

  • The largest numbers of Indians are in UAE which is around 3.3 million.

  • India is their 2nd largest trading partner and they are Indias’s 3rd largest trading partner that is $60 billion in trade.

  • Indian companies that roughly invested about $85 billion in UAE. There are about 5,000 Indian companies operating there across the spectrum and likewise, the UAE has been investing about $14-15 billion dollars in India.

  • Nearly, 24 percent of the total remittances that is $18.5 billion dollars come from there.

  • The exchanges at the highest level in the past few years have been amazing, not only the Prime Minister Modi visited there 3 times himself and was conferred with the highest honor, we also had the Crown Prince come and become the chief guest on the Republic Day.

  • In 2019, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj was invited to speak at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting and that in the last so many years had not happened and Pakistanis continued to object but the UAE invited her as a special guest.

  • UAE is India’s preferred partner in energy security.

  • They are partners in the food security.

  • They have committed to about $75 billion investments in India.

  • When Pulwama and the Balakot happened, the UAE has been very appreciative of India's stand and supported India.

  • They have definitely and very openly and categorically support India's stance in the International domain.

  • Today, our relationship has moved into another domain that is the space, nuclear cooperation, cyber security, Artificial Intelligence, COVID, etc.

Key focus areas between these two nations:

  • India's relationship with the UAE is now almost the anchor of India's engagement in the larger middle east and West Asia.

  • When it comes to India's extended neighborhood or whether it's India's Look West Policy, the UAE lies very heart of it.

  • UAE can talk about engaging India and Pakistan but Indians have been very sensitive about third party mediation and India’s official response have been quite muted about it.

  • The gulf is looking at a remarkable geopolitical, geostrategic transformation where Indo-Pacific is going to be at the heart of it, they're looking at a completely changed relationship with the West and they're looking at partners like India that can deliver on the 21st century requirements.

UAE’s significance vis-a-vis India's Middle East Policy:

  • The special thing that stands out as far as UAE is concerned is that they do not have the kind of religious domination unlike, the Saudi Arabia, the largest economy of the place has.

  • They have tried to come up as a country where all religions are equal, they have nearly 200 nationalities in the country, they believe in the tolerance and they have a Ministry of Tolerance and they gave a land for Indian temple, the Pope visited there.

    • Foundation stone for the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi was laid on 20 April 2019.

  • So, it is trying to project itself as a middle power which is far more innovative in his foreign policy choices whether it was normalizing relations with the with Israelis or whether going and working in Yemen or elsewhere with Saudi Arabia.

  • It is also flexing its muscles as far as the regional geopolitics is concerned. It's has very close ties with Saudi Arabia virtually a defense security partnership and bilateral partnership.

  • It also has good relations with Iran, the largest Iranian investments are actually in the UAE and when they were signing this Abraham Accords, the Foreign Minister clearly said that this is not against Iran.

  • They are looking at this transformation and the certain withdrawal of the United States from the security umbrella of this region and towards Indo-Pacific. So, they are also gearing up their policy in that direction.

  • UAE, Oman and some of the countries of the region in the Western Asia figures in India’s concept of the Indo-Pacific.

  • They are keen on engaging the ties and creating stakes for India and Indian stakes in the country that's why it becomes more important for India.

Impact of larger cooperation between India and UAE on South Asian countries:

  • India has shown that the talks with Pakistan will be on India's terms. When India announced the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan tried to internationalize it.

  • It didn't get much eyes so, in more ways than one, India has shown to the world that Pakistan is really a non-entity as far as our calculations are concerned but for a country like UAE, Pakistan is very important given their ideological linkages, given their religious linkages and given their past relationship

  • So, they would like the India-Pakistan relationship to have a stabilizing impact and so it's not surprising that they want an engagement between two major South Asian countries as well as greater degree of stability in Afghanistan which can be a precursor to a larger South Asia, Middle Eastern stability because if that does not happen then the consequences both for India that wants to weather the storm of extremism and for moderate countries like UAE in the middle east would be quite catastrophic.

  • So, both countries like Afghanistan to be stable, to be secure, to be prosperous with fundamental democratic regime taking place not a Taliban variety of regime.

  • For all this to happen, Pakistan also plays a very crucial role as Taliban was actually the creation of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in 1970, when they fought against the soviets.

  • Today, all the major powers are invested in Afghanistan for obvious reasons, they have their own strategic reasons, they have the economic reasons and Americans are no longer interested in Afghanistan in that sense of the charm.

In terms of economic aspect how both countries can help each other specifically to mitigate the impact of the COVID pandemic?

  • Because of wave after wave that is hitting the countries, the nations are really having to respond in real time and unless there is some degree of coordination and cross-national cooperation, economic recovery would be very difficult.

  • More and more countries are recognizing this, especially those that have a stake in how the global economic order evolves post COVID-19 and for two countries like India and the UAE, this is imperative because the expanse of the economic engagement at energy security, whether at diaspora remittances or sovereign wealth funds, all of these mean that unless global economic recovery happens fast, unless it moves in a direction that is more sustainable, it would be very difficult for emerging economies like India and UAE to make full use of the larger dynamic at play.

  • Therefore, for India it is imperative that it has these kinds of conversations regularly.

  • Both countries are looking at the 4th Industrial Revolution and at emerging technologies, what can be done to harness these opportunities is a great challenge.

  • The economic partnership with UAE has been very robust and has been growing very actively for the last few years but how can we tap into that at a time of great distress is going to be a challenge both for New Delhi and for UAE and hopefully, the kind of high-level interactions that we are seeing today and that will continue hopefully in the future and will help us alleviate some of those concerns.

Conclusion:

  • The most important aspect that the two countries today can look at their requirements through very similar prisms and come to occupy a special place in each other's foreign policy calculus, which again gives India great degree of confidence in its Middle East Policy and UAE, a great degree of confidence in its ability to navigate the turbulent waters of the Indo-Pacific in the future.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

  • OIC was established on the 25th September 1969 when an Islamic Conference took place after a fire on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

  • It is the world’s 2nd largest inter-governmental organisation after the UN, with a membership of 57 states.

  • Objective: To safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world.

  • OIC has reserved membership for Muslim-majority countries.

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