Placing young Emirati interns in top Indian companies and more translations of literature would be a logical next step to further ties between the two nations, two long-serving diplomats said.
Omar Ghobash, the UAE’s assistant minister for culture and public diplomacy, and Navdeep Suri, a former Indian ambassador to the UAE, spoke of how cultural ties, literature and educational exchanges were the key to the future during Ideas — A Shared History, an event on Sunday at Expo 2020 Dubai.
“India has a rich literature. I can’t read any of it, I can’t access it but I know by reputation,” said Mr Ghobash, who was previously UAE ambassador to France and Russia.
“I would personally be fascinated by literature out of the Malayalam language because I have been surrounded by Keralities all my life.
"I want to know what it is they write about, what do they think about. For me that is a mystery. It would really open my eyes.
“There are a lot of Emirati kids who need to understand who is it working alongside us, without whom we would not be what we are today. That is something that is important.”
The two countries signed a historic Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement last week that outlined new avenues for investment aiming to increase bilateral trade from $60 billion to $100bn in the next five years.
A vision statement by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, on Friday also agreed to set up a council to promote cultural exchanges, dialogues and exhibitions.
There has also been a decision to establish an Indian institute of technology in the UAE. The IIT is India’s top engineering institute with 23 branches across the country.
The diplomats spoke of building on the new relationship.
“I’m really excited about this relationship. I actually think it’s like putting the crown on top of the relationship,” Mr Ghobash said.
He described ties with India and Israel as “two new relationships that essentially will, I think, turbo-charge the Emirates forward and will allow us to have a greater say on the direction of the Middle East, hopefully.”
Mr Suri said that during lunch with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, he learnt about an internship programme the UAE minister started when he led the education department.
The former Indian envoy said a similar programme was possible with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an apex Indian trade body.
“With FICCI, we can start a programme where we place young Emiratis from NYUAD [and] UAE University in internships with top companies in India and get them to spend three to six months to get experience of what the Indian business environment is like,” Mr Suri said.
“There is an obligation for young Emiratis to understand this giant economy next door by seeing it first hand.
“We also need to connect our writers, intellectuals and opinion makers. There is a lot of room for translations of our literature.”
Mr Suri spoke of a collective responsibility to build strong connections between young people.
“The area where we lag is culture,” he said. “Much of Indian cultural activity is aimed at the Indian community. There is simply not enough of a cultural cross connect.
"The kinship that existed between my generation and older Emiratis is beginning to dissipate in the younger generation. I worry that our young people, both in India and the UAE, are looking at the West rather than at each other.
“We need to get creative and innovative on how to get them to engage with each other.”
The Indian community, with more than 3.4 million people in the UAE, is the country's largest expatriate population.