The 'living bridges' between India and the UAE

On Republic Day, we are reminded of the strength of the bonds running across the Arabian Sea, writes Ambassador Sunjay Sudhir

A cricket fan flies the Indian flag outside Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Khushnum Bhandari/ The National
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On the occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, I convey my warm greetings and good wishes to all Indian nationals and friends of India in the UAE.

This day in 1950, the Constitution of India entered into force and India became a sovereign, secular and democratic republic. Our constitution encapsulated our values and beliefs of equality, justice, freedom of thought, speech and expression, rule of law and secularism. India has stood the test of time and has blossomed into a thriving and caring democracy and a robust economy. As envisioned by our founding fathers, India has also stood for peace and harmony around the world. Besides being the world’s largest democracy and fifth-largest economy, India is also one of the most diverse cultures where many different faiths, languages, ethnicities and cultures co-exist peacefully.

Once again, we are celebrating this Republic Day under the shadow of another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this time we stand better prepared, stronger with our experiences and armed with effective vaccines, to minimise the impact of this wave. India has contributed to the global fight against Covid-19, with the indigenously developed Covaxin, recently approved by the WHO; Covishield, in association with Oxford University and AstraZeneca; and the recently launched needle-less Zydus Cov-D vaccines. With about 1.6 billion vaccinations being administered, the vaccination drive had covered more than 90 per cent of all adults with at least one dose and close to 70 per cent with two doses by mid-January and continues at a rapid pace across the country.

With a plan in place for economic recovery from the pandemic, India is seeing signs of getting back on track with the World Bank projecting an economic growth rate of 8.3 per cent for 2021 to 2022, faster than any other major economy in the world. Industrial activity, which has a direct impact on employment across sectors, in all eight core sectors is already higher than pre-Covid-19 levels.

India is also engaging with the world with a re-invigorated spirit and is playing a key role as a current member of the UN Security Council and other international forums. It is also well placed to harness the new realities of international supply chains post the disruption caused by the pandemic.

India and UAE have a shared history dating back centuries. From the days of barter trade for pearls, dates and spices, today the relationship has blossomed into a multifaceted partnership, maturing beyond the erstwhile trading ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership. As India celebrates 75 glorious years of independence and the UAE its year of the 50th, our two nations have embarked on the journey towards a future ready partnership. India-UAE relations have scaled new heights owing to the great personal bonds between our leadership.

The deep-rooted relationship has received new momentum under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In the last six years, the Prime Minister has visited the UAE three times, most recently in August, 2019. During the same period, Sheikh Mohamed has visited India two times, including in January, 2017, when bilateral relations were formally upgraded to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.

To gauge the depth of our relations, one need not look further than the sincerity with which India and the UAE stood by each other during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. While India sent healthcare personnel to bolster the UAE’s health systems, along with medicine and vaccines, the UAE supplied liquid medical oxygen, cryogenic containers and life-saving drugs. India also ensured its unimpeded food supply to the UAE through a dedicated air bridge, and the UAE’s airlines also flew assistance, free of charge, to several cities in India. The UAE’s steadfast commitment to orderly repatriation of Indians during the Vande Bharat Mission is another example of the priority that India and UAE accord the well-being of our people.

One need not look further than the sincerity with which India and the UAE have stood by each other during the pandemic

In the economic arena, the UAE is India’s third-largest trading partner, with annual bilateral trade surpassing $60 billion in pre-Covid-19 years. The UAE is also the fourth-largest energy exporter to India, and both countries are further strengthening and diversifying their energy partnership. The only foreign partner in India’s strategic reserves is the UAE, and Indian companies are active in the UAE for oil production as well as exploration. We are also working together closely on renewables.

A testimony of the closeness and mutual comfort is the rapid pace at which multiple rounds of negotiations for the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) were conducted. The Agreement, when signed, will boost investment, trade and technological partnerships, and create employment opportunities across sectors. Also, the India Pavillion at the Expo 2020 Dubai has provided a platform to showcase the vast opportunities that India’s growth story presents to the world.

The energy imparted to the bilateral relationship at the highest levels has percolated downwards, and today individual Indian states are engaging with both public and private sector institutions in the UAE. Examples of such engagements are the partnerships announced by DP World for development of port infrastructure in the state of Tamil Nadu, and several agreements by UAE-based companies for development of agri-business, retail, an inland container depot and other infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir, among many others. Many more are in the pipeline.

The India-UAE partnership extends beyond the bilateral arena. Our two countries remain committed to joint climate action, which will be bolstered by the UAE hosting Cop28 in 2023. India has been elected as President of the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) Assembly next year and is keen to partner with the UAE for a timely, just and equitable energy transition. India and the UAE will also work together at the UN Security Council, where both serve as non-permanent members, for a more peaceful and secure world.

The 3.5 million Indians in the UAE are a critical pillar of strength for the country. Their contributions, even during the most trying times, have been exemplary and will act as an inspiration to Indians around the world. India counts on their achievements to make the nation shine and thrive on the global stage. The Indian community’s zeal and sincerity in giving back to the motherland is a vital cog in the wheel of our nation building. The Indian community is a living bridge that brings India and UAE even closer.

Once again, on behalf of the Embassy of India in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate General of India in Dubai, I wish everyone a very Happy 73rd Republic Day. Jai Hind.

Published: January 26, 2022, 2:00 AM