Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed arrives in India to boost bilateral ties

Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by a delegation of seven ministers and 60 UAE-based entrepreneurs — 40 of these of Indian origin, and the remaining 20 Emirati.

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi greets Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on arrival in New Delhi. Prakash Singh / AFP Photo
Powered by automated translation

NEW DELHI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, arrived in New Delhi on Wednesday, beginning a three-day trip to boost India-UAE relations to new levels of cooperation.

Sheikh Mohammed was warmly embraced by prime minister Narendra Modi on his arrival at the airport in New Delhi. Later in the evening, Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, met with the Crown Prince as well.

Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by a delegation of seven ministers and 60 UAE-based entrepreneurs — 40 of these of Indian origin, and the remaining 20 Emirati.

The centrepiece of Sheikh Mohammed’s trip will be a session of talks with prime minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. The discussions are expected to cover a number of topics related to economy and trade, investment, security and research, said Anil Wadhwa, the Indian foreign ministry’s secretary for its eastern division.

“The importance of this visit can be gauged from the excellent rapport between the leaders of the two countries,” Mr Wadhwa said on Wednesday. “This visit comes only a few months after the visit of our prime minister to the UAE in August 2015.”

On Thursday, Sheikh Mohammed will receive a ceremonial guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the Indian president. In keeping with tradition, he will then proceed to Raj Ghat, the state memorial for Mahatma Gandhi, where he will sign the visitors’ book and plant a sapling.

Sheikh Mohammed and Mr Modi will have their first meeting at the prime minister’s residence. In the afternoon, the Crown Prince will call on the Indian president, Pranab Mukherjee, who will host a lunch in his honour. Later in the day, Sheikh Mohammed will also meet India’s vice president, Hamid Ansari.

In the evening, Mr Modi will receive Sheikh Mohammed once more for longer and more detailed talks, to exchange memoranda of understanding drawn up by the two delegations. Talks will continue into a working dinner, hosted by the prime minister.

At least 16 agreements are under negotiation between the two countries. But Mr Wadhwa would only describe their subjects in broad terms, saying that it would be premature to go into further specifics until negotiations were concluded.

The agreements propose extended cooperation between India and the Emirates in space research, renewable energy, financial regulation, skills development and cyber security.

Perhaps the most-watched of these agreements involves an effort to help the UAE’s institutional investors fund several major infrastructure projects in India.

During Mr Modi’s trip to the UAE last August, the two countries announced that the Emirates would look to invest US$75 billion (Dh275.49bn) in Indian infrastructure. One part of this strategy would involve giving “the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) a chance to be on the board of the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund,” Mr Wadhwa said. The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, set up by the Indian government in December, will channel Indian and foreign infrastructure investments into projects being planned by relevant ministries.

He pointed out that Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, the managing director of Adia, had visited India last week, to attend the India Investment Summit 2016 in New Delhi.

“Really, many of the subjects of the other memoranda stem from the high level task force of officials from both countries that has already been identifying areas for investment,” Mr Wadhwa added.

He said that while “a general framework agreement will be signed now, the modalities of how this will operate — what projects they will be investing in — will have to be worked out in the future.”

“The fund has just taken off, and it’s in its initial stages, but it’s a good investment opportunity,” he said.

On Friday, Sheikh Mohammed will fly to Mumbai. That afternoon, he will visit the Mumbai Stock Exchange to meet executives from financial institutions. He will then attend a reception held by the UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed Al Banna, before flying back to Abu Dhabi later that evening.

ssubramanian@thenational.ae