This weekend, my country welcomed the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his third visit to the UAE, during which he becomes the first Indian leader to receive the UAE's highest civil honour, the Order of Zayed, in appreciation of his role in consolidating the long-standing friendship and joint strategic co-operation between our two countries.
Mr Modi has played a pivotal role in extending bridges of co-operation between the UAE and the republic of India in various fields. The UAE and India have a long history of partnership, rooted in trade. Both countries rely on, and benefit from, the manufacturing and industrial infrastructure as well as the trade routes that connect us.
I believe that state visits are an important gesture of global alliance as they help to remind us of the economic opportunities that can be tapped into when nations work together. Against a backdrop of a downturn in global trade, I am proud to see the strong example of collaboration that India and the UAE present to the world.
Over the years, our countries have adopted similar policies that embrace partnership and openness in global trade. Through India's ambition of becoming a $5 trillion economy and the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, we share bold, long-term visions that chart our respective countries' journey towards sustained growth.
Today, more than ever, mutual investments and the strengthening of bilateral ties benefit us all in the long run. The UAE is the fourth largest exporter of crude oil to India and these volumes are expected to rise as we strengthen partnerships with India’s largest oil and gas companies.
Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) signed a $170 million partnership with India's Bharat Petroleum (BPCL) and Indian Oil Corporation (IOL) to explore and appraise oil and gas opportunities in Abu Dhabi over 35 years, with the opportunity for BPCL and IOC to develop and produce any discoveries.
While these opportunities are new, Indian business investment in the UAE is not. Indian companies across the metal, food-processing and packaging, pharmaceutical, construction and automotive industries have been household names in the UAE for decades and are now using industrial hubs like Abu Dhabi as a base to expand across the GCC and to increase exports to countries in the Middle East and further afield to Africa.
Abu Dhabi Ports’ Industrial Zone, Kizad, has attracted a number of Indian businesses that will further grow with the signing of an agreement earlier this month with India’s largest trade body for the plastics industry. The strategic partnership will support Indian polymer manufacturers, with the aim of expanding across the Middle East.
To help Indian businesses grow internationally, Abu Dhabi Ports is investing heavily in port infrastructure and we have set ambitious targets to make sure we have the right capacity and tools in place. Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Port, constructed in 2012, has launched expansion plans to increase its capacity from 2.5 million 20ft equivalent units, or TEUs, to 9.1m TEUs over the next five years. Additionally, we have committed Dh1 billion to expand and transform the port of Fujairah, the only multi-purpose port on the east coast of the UAE.
These expansions will help boost Indian trade and energy shipping routes and help export-orientated Indian businesses grow. In 2018 our shipping hubs received 916,771 freight tonnes of bulk and steel shipments from India. So far this year, we have already recorded 547,706 freight tonnes of shipment.
Similarly, the alliance between the UAE and India has enhanced industrial development on Indian coastlines and enabled Indian businesses to expand across the Middle East from industrial hubs around some of the Gulf’s busiest ports.
India has contributed to the development of the UAE since its foundation and today, through partnership and investment in some of India’s largest state-owned enterprises and businesses, the UAE has cemented its support for India’s growth story.
This co-operation is set to move to higher levels with the clear commitment of both parties to enhance their strategic ties. Today the UAE is India’s third largest trade partner, with annual trade between the two countries estimated at around $60 billion. Last year we recorded a 17 per cent increase in non-oil trade compared to 2017. This growth shows no sign of slowing.
I am proud to welcome Mr Modi to the UAE and reiterate on this occasion our continued support and commitment to be a part of India’s growth story.
Falah Mohammad Al Ahbabi is a member of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, chairman of the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities and chairman of Abu Dhabi Ports