India’s new envoy looks forward to 'upward trajectory' of ties with UAE

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Energy, solar power, food security, cyber safety and artificial intelligence are among priority areas of UAE-India cooperation, Delhi's envoy to the UAE has said.

Indian Ambassador Pavan Kapoor said the focus in the future would be to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership with energy an important area of cooperation.

Mr Kapoor spoke to The National in a wide-ranging interview on the eve of India’s 71st Republic Day celebrations on Sunday, which marks the date India’s constitution came into effect.

India is a robust democracy, with ample room for debate and constructive opposition

Pavan Kapoor

“Our relations are on an upward trajectory and we are working to ensure that this trend continues,” he said.

“In the field of energy, our ties have moved from being a buyer-seller relationship to that of strategic interdependence with both countries investing in each other’s energy sector.

“We are also working to expand our cooperation in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and cyber security, and constantly exploring new opportunities for cooperation.”

Mr Kapoor said India and the UAE were working together for a more sustainable and climate friendly future by expanding capacities in the field of renewable energy especially solar.

Cooperation on food security and infrastructure are other key sectors.

“UAE entities are expected to invest upto $7 billion in India as part of the India-UAE food security corridor. Another focus area will be facilitating the UAE’s commitment to investing $75 billion in infrastructure development in India,” Mr Kapoor said.

Indian Republic Day celebrations at the Indian High School in 2016. Antonie Robertson / The National

Mr Kapoor acknowledged the role played by the 3.3 million Indian community, the UAE’s largest expatriate group, in building close ties.

“We cherish and value your contribution to the growth story of both India and the UAE,” Mr Kapoor said as part of a Republic Day message.

“We deeply appreciate your role in nurturing this relationship and will ensure that you continue to play a significant part as we attempt to further deepen and strengthen these ties.”

The UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner with annual bilateral trade of about $60 billion. The Emirates is also the fourth-largest crude oil exporter for India.

But it is the deep historical connection between the people that has cemented ties.

“This people to people connect has been one of the strongest factors impacting our relationship,” Mr Kapoor said.

“Relations between our two countries date back hundreds of years, much before India and the UAE assumed their modern form. Ties between our peoples are ancient, generational and emotional. So the cultural connection is very strong.”

The personal rapport between the leaders over the last few years has also helped implement the strategic partnership.

“The UAE is one of the very few countries that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited often in the last five years,” Mr Kapoor said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited the UAE three times in four years. He received the Order of Zayed, the nation's highest civilian award from Sheikh , Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in August last year.

Sheikh Mohamed was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2017. It was his second visit to India in less than a year.

This was followed by regular high-level visits by ministers and government officials on both sides.

In recent months, Indians in the UAE have expressed concern about protests back home over a new law offering citizenship to non-Muslim migrants including Christians and Hindus who fled Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan and settled in India before 2015.

Critics have denounced the law for not making the same provisions for Muslim migrants. The government maintains it wants to give citizenship to religious minorities who face persecution in neighbouring Muslim countries.

“Our message to the community here is not to believe misleading or false information in the print or social media and instead go by the facts,” he said.

“The law and order situation in India is fully under control and there is no need to panic. India is a robust democracy, with ample room for debate and constructive opposition. Every Indian citizen is free to peacefully express his or her concern on any subject, including the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) recently passed by the Parliament of India.”

With the Expo 2020 coming up in October in , Mr Kapoor said the country was “working hard” to prepare an impressive India pavilion.

“Expo 2020 is special for the UAE but also important for India,” Mr Kapoor said, adding that participation of prominent public and private sector companies from India would further boost trade and investment.

India has already committed $50million for one of the largest pavilions for the Expo 2020 Dubai that will feature a massive image of Mahatma Gandhi on the facade and incorporate Bollywood flair in the interior.

Updated: January 26, 2020 08:53 AM

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