Prime Minister Narendra Modi today embarked on a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a focus on boosting cooperation in various sectors, including energy, ports, fintech, digital infrastructure, railways, and investment flows.
The visit aims to solidify the robust ties between the two nations, as discussions on multiple agreements are expected to take place following talks between PM Modi and the President of the UAE, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
In an exclusive interview with NDTV ahead of the visit, Abdulnasser Jamal Alshaali, the UAE’s ambassador to India, provided insights into the expectations and the broader context of the relationship between India and the UAE.
“We are expecting a successful visit for sure. The World Government Summit 2024, the engagements at the stadium, bilateral talks, the inauguration of the BAPS temple; we are excited,” Ambassador Alshaali said.
One notable aspect of the discussion revolved around the scheduled inauguration of the BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi, with the land for the temple provided by the UAE government. Ambassador Alshaali underscored the cultural connection and the message of tolerance and acceptance that the temple conveys.
“It is a message of tolerance and acceptance. We do not discriminate in terms of religion, ethnicity, etc. This is also a testament to what the relationship between India-UAE is all about. It is not just a business-to-business or government-to-government relationship, but a people-to-people connection,” he said.
Addressing the camaraderie observed between UAE President and PM Modi, as witnessed in the Vibrant Gujarat summit recently, the ambassador stated, “There is no limit to what we can do together.”
On the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed in 2022, Ambassador Alshaali acknowledged initial skepticism due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he highlighted the remarkable speed at which the agreement was negotiated and signed, underscoring the strong bilateral relationship.
“Being able to come to the table, negotiate the agreement, and sign it in under such a short period says a lot about the relationship between the two countries. We have seen trade growing since CEPA was signed, we have seen investments going to both countries, and also interest growing among Indian businesses to work in the UAE and vice versa,” he said.
Last year, during PM Modi’s visit to Abu Dhabi, several MOUs were signed between India and UAE on renewable energy, healthcare and trade. The two countries recorded trade of about $85 billion in 2022-23. The UAE is also among the top four investors in India in terms of foreign direct investments in 2022-23.
The India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor was unveiled at the G20 summit in September. Seen by many as a counter to China’s Belt Road Initiative, this new partnership further transcended India-UAE bilateral relations.
“What started as a concept last year is now seeing the light of day. There will be more context on this after PM Modi’s visit,” Ambassador Alshaali said.
Comparing the period since PM Modi’s first visit to the UAE in 2015 with the preceding years, the ambassador also highlighted the unprecedented high-level engagement, increased investments, and growing trade between the two nations.
“Since PM Modi’s first visit to the UAE in 2015, we have seen high-level engagement, investments, and trade between the two countries. If all of this could be achieved in such a short period, I cannot even begin to imagine what we can achieve in the coming years,” he said.
About 3.5 million strong and the Indian community in the Gulf nation forms the largest expatriate group in the UAE. Ambassador Alshaali stressed the pivotal role played by the Indian community in the UAE’s success.
“They have played an important role and I think they will continue to play an important role. Some see the UAE as their second home, and that will continue to be the case in the coming years. What has changed perhaps now is that as we venture into other sectors, Indians are coming from other specialisations to the UAE to see how they can expand their business or contribute to UAE’s development,” he said.
Following the conclusion of his UAE tour, PM Modi will depart for Qatar on Wednesday.