The Indian community has played a major role in the economic development of the UAE
By Dr Ahmed Albanna, Ambassador of UAE to India
India and the UAE share historic cultural ties based on centuries-old people to people contact between the India and Arab civilization. In the early 19th century, the Indian traders, particularly from Kerala, were engaged in barter trade for pearls and dates with Arab traders. Initially, they were concentrated around the ports of Dubai, Fujairah, Sharjah and Dalma Island.
In Modern Era India-UAE relationship flourished after the creation of the UAE Federation in 1971. The UAE appointed its First Ambassador to New Delhi in 1972 while India appointed its First Ambassador to the UAE in June 1973.
The first high level visit from the UAE side was in 1975 by the founder of the UAE Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He again visited India in 1992. UAE’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, visited India in March 2007 and Mach 2010.
In recent years, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi visited India in February 2016 and again in 2017 as the Chief Guest for the India’s Republic Day Parade.
From Indian Side first high level visit to the UAE was made in 1976, when the then Indian President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed visited UAE. Later the then Indian President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam visited the UAE in 2003. Furthermore, the then Indian President Mrs. Prativhia Patil visited UAE in 2010. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the First Indian Prime Minister to visit UAE in 1981.
After 34 years gap, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited UAE twice, first in August 2015 and then in February 2018. UAE is one the very few countries where Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi visited twice.
UAE accounts for 8 percent of India’s oil imports and is the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India. Both the countries have speeded up the relationship to transform from what used to be a buyer-seller relationship into strategic partnership.
India-UAE trade which was valued at US$ 180 million per annum in the 1970s, is today around US$ 50 billion (exports from India US$ 28 billion and imports to India US$ 22 billion in the year 2017) making India the second largest trading partner of UAE, while UAE is India’s third largest trading partner (after China and US).
During the latest round of UAE-India Joint Commission Meeting held in Abu Dhabi in December 2018, India, UAE signed 35 Billion Rupees Currency Swap Agreement. It allows trading in their own currency and payments to import and export trade at pre-determined exchange rate without bringing in a third benchmark currency like the US dollars.
With India building around 39 million barrels of strategic crude oil storage facility at Mangalore, the 5.86 million barrels supplied by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC)—the only one to partner with India on its crude oil reserve programme till date, can be used during an emergency.
Furthermore, a trilateral energy cooperation framework agreement was also signed by ADNOC and Saudi Aramco to invest in the development of $44 billion refinery and petrochemicals complex that is coming up in the Indian state of Maharashtra. ADNOC and Aramco will use their own oil for the refinery and will jointly own 50% stake in the new joint venture.
UAE Investment in India
India-UAE High-level Task Force on Investment was established in 2012. The sixth meeting was held in Mumbai on 15 October 2018. UAE is the tenth biggest investor in India in terms of FDI. Prominent UAE companies such as DP World, EMAAR, RAKIA etc. have invested significantly in various sectors of the Indian economy.
There are more than 1000 direct flights per week between various destinations of India and the UAE. On April 23, 2013 Jet and Etihad Airways signed an US$ 8 billion agreement. Etihad airlines agreed to invest US$379 million in Jet Airways for a 24% stake in the shareholding.
The two nations share historical ties and have maintained regular cultural exchanges both at official and people to people levels. India and UAE signed a Cultural Agreement in 1975. India was the ‘Guest of Honour’ country at the UAE’s prestigious month-long annual cultural festival in March 2018, the Abu Dhabi Festival (ADF), which showcased diverse cultural wealth of India to the World bringing top level performances from India. Second National Tolerance Festival was organized in the month of November 2018, by UAE Ministry of Tolerance, in which India also participated.
Indian External Affairs Minister Mrs. Sushma Swaraj and UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed jointly inaugurated the Zayed-Gandhi digital museum during Indian Foreign Minister’s visit to UAE in December 2018.
This digital museum in Abu Dhabi is dedicated to the life and message of love, tolerance and humanity of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the Indian Nation and Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, former President and founding father of the UAE.
The 27th edition of the New Delhi World Book held in January 2019, also saw the UAE’s third largest emirate Sharjah being as its guest of honour. AT Sharjah Pavilion around 57 Arabic language works translated in Hindi were the major attraction of the New Delhi World Book fair. It was noted that UAE accounts for 37% of India’s total book exports to the Arab World.
The Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi has also designated India as the Guest of Honour for the 29th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair which will be held under the patronage of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi from 24-30 April 2019. There are plans to celebrate India, its culture, languages and publishing industry during Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
As per data from the International Organization of Migration, the Indian population in UAE has grown to 3.3 million, making it the largest concentration of Indian nationals outside India. The Indian community has played a major role in the economic development of the UAE. Their remittances to India rose to $13.8 billion.
Abu Dhabi Includes Hindi as Third Official Court Language and Most importantly, the Abu Dhabi has accorded Hindi as the third official language used in its courts, alongside Arabic and English, as part of a move designed to improve access to justice. The Abu Dhabi Judicial Department on February 9th said it has extended the adoption of interactive forms of statement of claims filed before courts by including the Hindi language alongside Arabic and English in labour cases. This is aimed at helping Hindi speakers to learn about litigation procedures, their rights and duties without a language barrier.
This article is an excerpt from the address by the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to India, Dr Ahmed Albanna at IIT New Delhi on March 18, 2019.