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UAE-India dialogue paves wave for Crown Prince visit to New Delhi

NEW DELHI // The first “strategic dialogue” between the UAE and India was held yesterday, days ahead of the state visit of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Sheikh Mohammed will arrive on Tuesday for a three-day visit, where he will be the chief guest at India’s 2017 republic day celebrations from January 24 to 26.

“During the day-long meeting, the two sides discussed a number of issues ranging from cooperation in trade and investments to energy security and renewable energy, defence and security, electronics and information technology and space,” the Indian government said.

“The meeting provided a timely opportunity to prepare for the forthcoming state visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The two sides were represented by strong delegations drawn from a number of relevant ministries and departments.”

The dialogue was co-chaired by Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and M J Akbar, India’s minister of state for external affairs.

Commenting on Sheikh Mohammed’s visit, K C Singh, a former Indian ambassador to the UAE, said that India-UAE relations cannot be measured by trade alone, despite its volume.

“Dubai is [an] entrepot for Indian goods to the entire region,” he said. “India and the UAE have been seeking genuine convergence. Hopefully, with this visit, some major steps in that direction should be taken.

“The world is at a point where global economic and military power are shifting and all major powers (are) recalibrating policies. The UAE would like clarity on the Indian approach to Iran, and India would likewise want to assess the UAE’s relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The unfortunate killing of UAE diplomats in Kandahar show that old certainties are no longer valid.”

Mr Singh said that the UAE’s investments in India would work in fields that are compatible with the UAE’s economic plans such as oil and gas downstream, civil aviation and defence.

“New fields can be tourism, healthcare, defence, renewable energy, education and even nuclear power,” he said.

According to the Indian government, India and the UAE have been among each other’s top trading partners, with a well-balanced bilateral trade of around US$50 billion (Dh184bn) in 2015 and 2016.

The UAE is one of the leading investors in India in terms of foreign direct investments. It contributes significantly to India’s energy security and was the fifth-largest supplier of crude oil to India in those years.

This will be the second state visit of Sheikh Mohammed to India since last year when the UAE expressed its interest in investing in infrastructure development in the country, including railways, roads, ports and shipping.

At the time, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Mohammed welcomed the opening of D P World’s “smart port” Nhava Sheva in Mumbai and signed an agreement to expand the participation of Emirati investors in infrastructure projects in India.

Both sides described these developments as important steps towards reaching the US$75bn target for UAE investments in India’s infrastructure development plans.

At 2.6 million, Indians form the largest expatriate community in the UAE.

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