Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second visit to the UAE received a rousing reception from the UAE leadership as well as the large Indian diaspora in the country. But beyond the public pageantry of celebrations, with four high-level visits in the past three years, UAE-India relations have now gained a strategic depth that was lacking in its decades of warm and friendly ties. While the relations between both nations have been elevated to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership, there is an increasing mutual recognition between Abu Dhabi and New Delhi of each other’s ambitions and aspirations, and both nations are eager to help each other fulfil them. Some of the bilateral agreements signed on Saturday are clear indicators of that.
The MoU signed between an Indian consortium led by ONGC and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) for a 10 per cent participating interest in the offshore Lower Zakum concession is the first Indian investment in the UAE’s upstream oil sector – thereby transforming a traditional transactional relation into a long-term investor partnership. Similarly, the presence of premier Indian institutes such as the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the Manipal Medical College will boost the education sector in the UAE while offering foreign students the chance to access their courses without travelling out.
The cooperation in the railways sector will similarly facilitate the sharing of knowledge, research and technology transfer. In addition, as moderate nations lying amid a turbulent part of the world, both India and the UAE share deeply common security goals: it is thus critical for the two sides to intensify their security and defence cooperation for peace and stability.
The momentum in the relations is unprecedented, but to sustain it, both sides will need to review progress regularly. While India has substantially improved in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business rankings to break into the top 100 countries, it needs to do more on infrastructure development and removing bottlenecks that hamper foreign investments. Potholed roads and hours of long traffic queues in major megacities are hardly the catalysts for fast-track investments. Unless such issues are taken care of on a priority basis, it will be hard to fully realise the potential of the $75-billion fund announced by Modi and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, two years back. It is on the planks of peace, stability and security that UAE and India see their relations prospering in the future – and by embracing them the two will chart a new course for partnership in the 21st century.