UAE-INDIA Bilateral Relations
The UAE’s economic, political and cultural links with India, which date back to more than a century ago, are matured and multi-dimensional. Bilateral trade has been steadily growing over the years and people-to-people contacts are constantly on the increase. Tourists from both sides are visiting for leisure and pleasure, and more and more UAE nationals are availing of healthcare and tourism facilities in India.
Close bonds between the Indian community and the nationals can be judged from the fact that the Indian community is the largest expatriate community in the UAE, numbering about 1.5 million. Strong bonds of friendship between the UAE and India are poised to be further diversified and strengthened in months and years to come.
Excerpts of the interview with Indian Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmed.
Relations between the UAE and India are strong and based on cultural contacts between the peoples of the two countries. What are the historical ties that bind the two nations and what are the new strategies for strengthening their cultural and traditional bonds?
India-UAE relations are on the upswing. The two countries share bonds of cultural affinity and have strong commercial and cultural linkages. Our expanding ties cover the full range of economic, technical, social and cultural fields that are mutually beneficial for both peoples.
A momentum to the growing relationship of India with the Gulf countries, especially the UAE, was provided by the visit of Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan to India in June. During the visit, both sides had fruitful and substantial discussions on a wide range of subjects, including bilateral relations, regional situation, security, defence and renewable energy. From the Indian side, the then Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee and Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath had visited UAE in May and April 2008, respectively.
Our relations are not determined by trade and economic aspects alone. Indians were present in the UAE long before oil was discovered and have played a vital role in the development of the country. They have been active partners with their Emirati hosts. UAE leaders have on several occasions acknowledged the contributions made by Indians in different spheres.
What are the developments in the fields of business and commerce between the two countries?
India and the UAE are making robust efforts to renew and strengthen the bilateral economic and trade relations. The relationship between the two countries has evolved into a significant partnership in the economic and commercial sphere, with UAE emerging as the second largest market globally for Indian products. At the same time, Indians have emerged as important investors in the UAE, and India as an important export destination for the UAE manufactured goods.
How was the two-way trade between the two countries last year? India-UAE non-oil trade valued at $29,023.68 in 2007-2008. The two-way trade for 2007-2008 showed a 40 per cent growth over the previous year. The main items of exports from India included mineral fuels, natural or cultured pearls, cereals, gems and jewellery, manmade yarn, fabrics, metals, cotton yarn, marine products, machinery and equipment, plastic and linoleum products, tea and meat and preparations. Major items of imports from UAE include mineral fuels, mineral oils, natural or cultured pearls, precious or semi-precious stones, metal ores & metal scrap, sulphur and unroasted iron pyrites, electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof, iron and steel etc.
A large portion of India’s exports to the UAE is transshipped from Dubai to other countries in the region such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and, of late, even to East African countries. Thus, exports to the UAE have, in effect, opened up a huge regional market for Indian products.
Is there any scope for further growth in bilateral trade and mutual investments between the two countries?
The sharp increase in our bilateral trade, especially in the non-oil sector, is a reflection of the growth and depth of the two economies. Indian and UAE companies are actively involved in pursuing investments and projects in both countries. These joint venture initiatives involve some of the most important companies from India such as Tata, Reliance, Wipro, NTPC, Larsen & Toubro, Dodsals and Punj Lloyd. From the Emirati side, the top companies active in India are Emaar, Nakheel, DP World, etc. In October last year, an MoU between UAE University and India’s Atul Limited was signed for strategic partnership for transfer of technology to set up a state-of-the-art date palm tissue culture production unit in Rajasthan.
What is the estimated number of Indian people and businesses in UAE?
It is estimated that about 1.5 million Indians live in UAE. Not many have left the country in the recent past. The global crisis has merely served to strengthen the shift away from purely speculative activity without having a significant adverse impact on the principal energy, infrastructure and real estate projects being pursued in the country, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as finance is available readily for such national development-related projects. Hence, the current economic crisis is unlikely to have any significant impact on the recruitment of Indians.
What is the state of tourism between the two countries?
Tourism sector is one of the areas that has good potential for future growth, especially medical tourism. Emiratis going to India are already utilising Indian health services, including the ayurvedic establishments and spas. Another area with considerable scope for cooperation in tourism is construction and maintenance of hotels. There is good scope for UAE to invest in the over-all tourism sector in India, which would help pull tourists visiting the UAE to India as well.
Will there be a new, more dynamic, phase in UAE-India relations in future?
Reflecting the global realities, ties between India and the UAE are acquiring a new dimension. The two countries have established strong partnerships in the field of commerce and trade. This partnership is expanding, diversifying and emerging into a strategic partnership with emphasis on cooperation in defence, energy, etc. UAE as a neighbour will be given priority attention in upgrading our ties.
Both countries can cooperate with each other bilaterally and regionally in defence and security issues and become partners in the global fight against terrorism and extremism.
Since UAE is focusing on knowledge based industries and with India emerging as world leaders in space, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and bio-technology, there is considerable scope for cooperation in technology transfer, R&D and for joint ventures. Defence cooperation reached a new high with the first ever India-UAE air exercise and the second India-UAE Joint Defence Cooperation Committee meeting. India got firm support of the UAE side on the issue of terrorism, specially on the Mumbai terror attacks of November last year.