Narendra Modi hails 'vibrant' UAE relations ahead of visit

Indian Prime Minister will receive Order of Zayed at the Presidential Palace

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Narendra Modi has described building closer ties with the UAE as one of India’s greatest foreign policy achievements.

The Indian Prime Minister arrives in the country on Friday to a reception reserved for very few global leaders.

And on the eve of his third visit in four years, Mr Modi has hailed the ever-closer relationship across energy, trade, tourism and much more.

“Frequent high-level interactions between India and UAE testify to our vibrant relations,” he posted on Twitter on Thursday.

“The UAE is our third-largest trade partner and fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India. The visit will further strengthen our multifaceted bilateral ties.”

More than three million Indians call the UAE home, so Mr Modi will be among friends when he lands in Abu Dhabi on Friday.

The following day, he will hold talks with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

And later at the Presidential Palace, he will be bestowed with the prestigious Order of Zayed, the country’s highest civilian honour.

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1972, just a year after the UAE was formed.

But ties stretch back centuries. Traders plied sea routes from India to the Gulf hundreds of years ago, while the region's pearls were highly coveted back across the Indian Ocean.


Sripriyaa Kumaria, director general India Trade and Exhibition Centre and secretary general of the Business Leaders Forum. The story is about how the business world sees the meeting between Modi and Sheikh Mohamed will set the agenda for the next generation and opens up new avenues for cooperation. 

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

Sripriyaa Kumaria, director general India Trade and Exhibition Centre and secretary general of the Business Leaders Forum. Reem Mohammed / The National

The frequency of Mr Modi's visits to the UAE are a testament to these enduring bonds.

It is hoped that this visit will inject new momentum into an already robust economic partnership.

Mr Modi will launch the RuPay card – essentially an Indian version of Visa or Mastercard – and release a stamp to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Indian independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

"There is a real desire to take this relationship into new areas, including maritime and defence co-operation," Navdeep Suri, Indian ambassador to the UAE, told The National.

Mr Suri said Sheikh Mohamed and Mr Modi had also developed a personal rapport.

“The prime minister’s third visit really symbolises the special relationship that has emerged between India and the UAE over the plast four years and the very personal bond between him and Sheikh Mohamed,” he said.

Mr Modi's visit in 2015 was the first in 34 years by an Indian prime minister, since Indira Gandhi arrived.

It re-established historical connections that go beyond mere trade and commerce. And since then, relations have grown only stronger.

Energy security is a key priority for India and both governments expect bilateral trade to reach $100 billion (Dh367bn) by 2020.

The UAE's state oil company, Adnoc, is looking at collaborating in a planned $44bn refinery and petrochemical facility in Ratnagiri in western Maharashtra state.

Dubai's DP World, the global ports operator, just announced the India-UAE bridge to attract more trade to its flagship Jebel Ali Port and free zone.

For the huge Indian community in the UAE, the visit will reshape the future of both countries for generations to come.

“Our leaders are rewriting the history and shaping the future of our great nations,” said Sripriyaa Kumaria, director general of the India Trade and Exhibition Centre and secretary general of the  Business Leaders Forum.

Yusuffali MA, chairman of the supermarket chain Lulu, described current relations as a “golden era”.

The launch of the RuPay card in the UAE, meanwhile, is also being closely watched as a tool of financial empowerment.

The credit and debit card with 500 million Indians subscribers since it launched four years ago has created ripples in a field dominated by US giants Visa and Mastercard.

More than two million Indian tourists visit the UAE every year and they will soon be able to use the card in the Emirates, the third overseas destination after Singapore and Bhutan. There are also plans for banks in the UAE to issue the card.

“With the largest population of non-resident Indians and as a popular destination for Indian tourists, the UAE is a naturally relevant market for RuPay as it expands its international presence,” said Promoth Manghat, group chief executive at Finablr, a UAE-based payment solutions company.

“It enhances the mobility of globetrotting Indians while providing a host of benefits to the NRI community.”

Mr Modi arrives in the UAE from France and will leave on Saturday for Bahrain.