UAE Leader Begins India Visit


Through this visit, Shaikh Mohammed, accompanied by a high-level official and business delegation, including seven Cabinet colleagues, seeks to bolster business and investment ties as well as build on the strong bonds that exist between the two countries.

According to India’s External Affairs Ministry, Shaikh Mohammed’s visit is expected to substantially strengthen bilateral ties and enhance the multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries. Describing it as “historic and a landmark event”, diplomatic sources in New Delhi said the visit of the visionary leader from the UAE, which boasts of the most vibrant economy in the Arab world, will give a vital boost to India’s age-old ties with the Gulf, home to more than four million Indian expatriates. It is the beginning of a new era of economic cooperation, they said.

Sources said with the Middle East countries increasingly looking at India as a knowledge power and a rising economic giant, the UAE Vice-President’s visit — three days after the visit of Bahrain Crown Prince Shaikh Sulman bin Hamad Al Khalifa — underscores the keenness from both sides to take the existing strong relations to higher levels.

While the focus of both visits is being seen as predominantly economic and aimed at exploring investments in India in various areas, security issues, including the fight against global terrorism, will figure in Shaikh Mohammed’s discussions with Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and senior ministers.

Diplomatic sources said India will also raise issues relating to work conditions of hundreds of thousands of Indians living in the UAE.

Shaikh Mohammed, who is arriving in the afternoon today, will tomorrow attend a reception hosted by Dr Manmohan Singh, visit Mahatma Gandhi’s shrine and meet President Kalam. He is also expected to interact with top business leaders of India and invite them to invest in his country.

Leaders of the Indian business community in New Delhi stated, “As we welcome His Highness to India, for the nearly 1.5 million Indians who live in Dubai and their dependants in India, it is a time to rejoice and pay their tribute and respect to a great visionary and statesman par excellence.

And for the rest of India, it is a time to greet a great leader who has been largely instrumental in changing the destiny of the whole region and its people with a pragmatic and innovative style of governance that has few parallels elsewhere.

A prominent member of India’s apex trade body, FICCI, said, “As the architect of Dubai’s spectacular transformation into one of the fastest growing business, commercial, travel and leisure destinations on this planet, Shaikh Mohammed has become not only an Arab icon, but also a leader with a universal appeal and charisma. His visit to India will be a landmark opportunity for further cementing the centuries-old ties between India and the Arab world.”

As Abdulla Ebrahim Alzoy Al Shehhi, the UAE Ambassador to India, put it, the growing UAE-India relations symbolise not just mutual trust and dedication to each other, but also a relationship that goes much beyond remittances from the UAE. “How can some 1.4 million Indians living in the UAE not be our family? They have done so much for the UAE that we are indebted to their support for ever. We are grateful to India for being our friend.”

As the UAE envoy has pointed out, time has come for both India and the UAE to take a decisive leap to higher levels, to “move forward to forge an alliance that will help build our future as well as assist India in its phenomenal economic growth”.

According to C.M. Bhandari, India’s Ambassador to the UAE, the prime ministers of both the countries will sign agreements on an amendment to the double taxation avoidance treaty and on abolishing visas for diplomatic and official passport holders. “The relationship between India and the UAE has been traditionally close and friendly and rests on firm foundations of political, economic and cultural links. It is natural that on this memorable occasion, India and the UAE will rejoice in their respective successes and reaffirm their resolve to promote mutually beneficial joint venture projects and development programmes.”

Venu Rajamony, the Indian Consul-General in Dubai, said Dubai has become a focal point for Indian companies and businesses. Dubai is also an important trans-shipment point and logistics hub for Indian goods. More than 80 per cent of the trade between India and the UAE, which was close to $ 13 billion last year, is routed through Dubai. “Therefore, acceleration of trade and investment in Dubai is a priority for New Delhi.”

Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said during the visit, the stalled Free Trade Agreement talks between India and the GCC could be revived and the possibilities of signing an agreement of investment promotion and protection — a treaty seen by both sides as vital to further foster economic ties — will be reviewed.

In July 2003, India signed an agreement on defence cooperation with the UAE. The wide-ranging agreement was aimed at providing for military training, cooperation in military medical services and jointly combating pollution caused by the military at sea. The agreement provides for cooperation and security, defence policy, development of defence cooperation and import and export of arms. It also provides for military training, military medical services, military cultural and sports activities, environmental issues and pollution caused by military, particularly at sea.


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