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Modi's second visit in three years highlights strong India-UAE ties

Indians have played a role at every stage of the UAE’s growth, helping lay the foundations of this country’s infrastructure and institutions. Today the 3.3 million Indians that reside here are represented at every level of society, from building sites to hospitals to the boardrooms of the UAE’s largest companies. As of 2018, they are the largest community of non-resident Indians in the world, remitting tens of billions of dollars a year back home. The UAE has Indian businessmen like BR Shetty and Sunny Varkey to thank for hospitals and schools across the country.

Last year, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations. It was his second visit to India in less than a year. With Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second trip to the UAE now underway, the bond between the two countries looks stronger than ever. Bilateral agreements will further the strong economic ties that have seen the UAE become one of India’s largest international investors and trading partners. When the Prime Minister arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2015, he became the first Indian leader to visit since Indira Ghandi 34 years earlier. His return this week demonstrates Mr Modi’s strong commitment to a friendship whose durability sets it apart in a deeply fractured region.

Common economic objectives underpin India-UAE relations. Since the 1980s, bilateral trade between the two countries has soared from $182 million to some $53 billion annually. With India’s economy growing rapidly, so has its thirst for energy. The UAE, with its historically stable supply of crude, can quench that thirst. But with both economies maturing, the economic ties between the two nations have diversified. Today India is seeking co-operation on joint export opportunities in Africa, South America and Central Asia. In Mumbai on Wednesday, Abu Dhabi Week will get underway to encourage Indian investment in this country. As The National reported, Adnoc is set to store strategic oil reserves in Mangalore in Southern India, a deal of significant magnitude. Nevertheless, the bonds of friendship run deeper than economics. Construction will soon begin in Abu Dhabi on the region’s first traditional stone Hindu temple.

As many countries retreat, both India and the UAE are looking to expand their global influence. United in their desire to combat extremism and terrorism, the two nations have stepped up collaboration on security and defence in recent years. Now, as revealed on these pages, the UAE is exploring investments in Indian-manufactured defence equipment. As Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said last week: “The relationship has grown from a commercial and friendly nature and has acquired a lot of strategic depth.” Mr Modi’s productive visit is confirmation of lasting mutually beneficial India-UAE ties.

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