As we look back on 2021 and forward through 2022, it is clear that our two nations are at a historic inflection point. The UAE is celebrating its 50th anniversary and has laid out its vision for the next 50 years of growth. India is also celebrating “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”, a government initiative to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its independence, and is marching ahead on its long-term development journey with renewed vigour and enthusiasm.
Not long ago in 2017, a historic decision was taken by the leaders of our two countries to elevate our relationship into a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Since then, our time-tested relationship, rooted in a similar outlook, a deep affinity and enduring understanding, has blossomed into a strong and multi-faceted bilateral co-operation, positively affecting the lives of millions of our peoples.
This special relationship continues to evolve and adapt to the challenges of a complex and uncertain world, particularly in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The fortitude and resilience of our nations, and more importantly the depth of our friendship, has shone through in the face of adversity. We have worked together to promote peace, harmony, co-existence and prosperity for all communities. Our resolute focus has been on making progress for our peoples and the wider world through efficient utilisation of trade, technology, talent and tourism. An example is the UAE’s successful hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai despite the pandemic, with India playing its role with an inspirational pavilion that has captured the national spirit and captivated visitors.
Today, our strategic partnership is on the verge of a paradigm shift. As we explore the multitude of possibilities for collaborative growth and development in a post-Covid-19 era, we, once again, have a shared vision to take our partnership to the next level. Our shared vision will forge a partnership that is future-ready, with a special focus on co-operation in newer and emerging areas such as sustainability, climate action, innovation, digitalisation, startups, food and energy security, health, FinTech and skilling.
Just five months ago, we came together with a shared sense of hope and optimism for the historic task: commencing talks on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) that would not just create enormous opportunities for trade, commerce and investments but also contribute to a sustained global recovery at a tough – but potentially transformative – time.
The mutual desire for progress and an unwavering commitment to deliver far-reaching benefits to people in both countries ran deep on both sides. This joint sense of purpose inspired the trajectory of talks, which progressed at an exceptionally quick pace even against the challenges of the prevailing pandemic. Today, the agreement stands signed, sealed and delivered. The stage is set for a new era of prosperity and strategic co-operation between the UAE and India that will take both nations to a new level.
The direct rewards are clear for both nations. Bilateral trade will grow to $100 billion in five years, twice the pre-pandemic level. Enhanced market access will benefit all stakeholders, including exporters, importers and consumers alike; essential, high-skilled professionals will enjoy greater flexibility; and hundreds of thousands of new employment opportunities will be created for the benefit of the people of our two countries.
Indian businesses will gain improved market access in many product lines, particularly in labour-intensive sectors such as gems and jewellery, textiles, leather, footwear, plastics, agricultural products, engineering goods and pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, exporters from the UAE will gain enhanced access to India’s large market especially for products such as petroleum, metals, minerals, chemicals and petrochemicals. Downstream industries in India such as plastics, gems and jewellery will in turn derive benefits from lower-priced inputs.
Our people have enjoyed centuries of seamless movement between our two countries. This CEPA will enable India’s professionals to find enhanced opportunities in the UAE and shine on the global stage. Both sides will also benefit from UAE’s location as a strategic gateway to the Middle East, Africa, Europe and other regions. All forms of capital – financial, technological and human – will flow in both directions with a new and more efficient framework. India’s focus on public capital investment helping to bring in private investment – as reflected in its latest budget – should provide good opportunities for UAE investments to benefit from India’s growth.
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises will also find it easier to go global. India and the UAE have attractive, competitive and complementary startup ecosystems, and a golden era of entrepreneurship is emerging from various states/cities of India, including Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi, to business hubs in the UAE such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Our CEPA offers startups access to new customers, networks and opportunities, and provides improved mechanisms as launchpads to scale at speed.
Our two countries share a very close relationship in the energy sector. We remain committed to a timely, equitable and just energy transition for a cleaner and greener future. Our relationship in the petroleum and natural gas sector is unique with mutual investments in both countries. The UAE is also the only country to participate in India’s strategic petroleum reserves.
We are both pursuing dynamic new trade and investment policies. India hopes to see its exports exceed $400bn in 2022. Our growing bilateral trade will play an integral role in the UAE’s efforts to double the size of its economy by 2030. The destinies of the UAE and India have been inextricably intertwined for centuries. A closer collaboration, anchored in friendship, trust and the spirit of entrepreneurship, will create limitless opportunities for our economies, for our industries, our cities and our people – now and for generations to come. This is the vision that we aspire to.
Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi is the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade. Piyush Goyal is India's Minister of Commerce and Industry