India, UAE virtual summit to see inking of FTA, deepening of ties

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New Delhi, (UNI): Marking a deepening of their close ties, India and the UAE on Friday are set to ink key strategic agreements, including a Free Trade Agreement, during the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (UAE-India CEPA) is expected to usher in a new era of economic cooperation and unlock greater avenues for trade and investment between the two sides.

During the summit, both leaders are expected to lay out their vision of the historic and friendly bilateral ties at a time when India is celebrating 75 years of its independence and the UAE marking the 50th anniversary of its foundation.

The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi in his briefing on Thursday said that India’s relations with the United Arab Emirates have really seen a deepening and a transformation over the last few years, and it is now a relationship that covers numerous areas.

In a tweet, he said the summit between the two leaders will see further advancing of the comprehensive strategic partnership for prosperity, growth and security of the two countries.

The two leaders will discuss a range of regional and global issues of mutual concern, as well as ways to establish stronger strategic bilateral ties under the auspices of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership signed in 2017. India-UAE ties have grown tremendously in the past seven years since the visit of PM Modi in 2015.

There is great personal chemistry between the PM and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Both have spoken to each other regularly during Covid. While the Crown Prince visited India in 2016 and 2017, Prime Minister Modi visited the UAE in 2015, 2018 and 2019 to deepen the strategic bond between the two nations.

The two sides have also seen ministerial visits between them, including three visits by EAM S. Jaishankar, and a visit by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal in 2021. Both sides collaborated closely during the Covid-19 pandemic in critical areas of healthcare and food security. Bilateral trade, investment and energy relations have remained robust.

The two sides are also strengthening their cooperation in new areas of renewable energy, start-ups and fintech. India is participating in Expo 2020 Dubai with one of the largest country pavilions. A major initiative in bilateral relations is the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Negotiations for CEPA were launched in September 2021 and have been completed.

The Agreement will take India-UAE economic and commercial engagement to the next level. Today, the UAE is India’s third largest trade partner and accounts for approximately 40 percent of its trade with the Arab world.

The UAE is seeking to more than double its non-oil trade with India to $100 billion over five years, as part of efforts to deepen ties with fast-growing economies beyond the Middle East. During the Covid pandemic, the UAE took great care of the 3.5 million Indian community.

The Air Bubble agreed in August 2020 helped most people to return for employment and business. India-UAE trade are expected to be back to pre-pandemic level of USD 60 billion this financial year.

With CEPA it is expected to grow even more substantially. UAE investments are in the range of almost USD 17 billion today as compared to USD 3 billion in 2014. UAE business groups have also shown great interest in investing in Jammu and Kashmir.

There has been marked difference in UAE’s approach to investments in India, from the earlier time when they used to feel inhibited due to legacy issues like Emaar and Etisalat.

Any issue raised by the UAE side has been addressed through the High Level Task Force on Investments, which last met in October 2021. Energy cooperation has already been transformed with UAE’s participation in strategic reserves and offering Indian companies stakes in two fields, including the lower Zakum oil field.

The UAE is India’s third largest supplier of crude oil and second largest supplier of LPG/LNG. Cooperation in renewables is set to strengthen with the summit today. Defence relations have progressed well.

UAE has helped in overflight of Rafales from France to India. The Indian Army Chief and the Chief of Air Staff visited the UAE in December 2020 and August 2021 respectively.

India also had significant participation in the IDEX and NAVDEX 2021 exhibitions in Abu Dhabi. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan came to visit the Indian stall. Similarly, India had big participation in the Dubai Air Show 2021. India was allotted one of the biggest plots in the Dubai Expo and given the right to retain the Indian Pavilion after the Expo. Abu Dhabi has also given a large plot of land for a Temple.

The construction is proceeding ahead. It is a great symbol of harmony and tolerance between India and UAE. Both India and UAE are coordinating positions in the UNSC as non-permanent members this year. In an unprecedented gesture UAE had for the first time invited India for the OIC Foreign Ministers Meeting in March 2019. Former EAM Sushma Swaraj had attended.

There have also been regular consultations on regional issues, including Afghanistan for which Presidential Advisor Anwar Gargash had visited India after the Taliban captured power.

The UAE Government provided immediate help for repatriating the mortal remains of two Indians who lost their lives in the Houthi drone attack in Abu Dhabi on January 17 this year. UAE also announced that it will support the families of the two Indians further.

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