As the UAE grew in strength as an important emerging power in the region, so did its outlook and horizon in terms of its relations with other countries, commented a local daily.
"It is from this position of strength that the UAE is actively charting out, on a global scale, for a broad spectrum of links, including those with regional and international powers," said Najla Al Rostamani in a column published by Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
"Constructing such bridges comes as a natural progression for a country that has become more proactive, vocal, and most importantly, aware of the shifting regional and global landscape.
"Steadfastly, confidently, and building on openness and cooperation, the UAE's foreign policy today aims at a focused strategy. Such an approach means that looking East has become as vital as it has been historically in looking towards the West. Hence, it was only natural that relations towards countries of power like China, Russia, and now India are cultivated.
"It is, therefore, within this context that UAE-India relations should be viewed. As His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, commences one of the most significant foreign visits, it is important to view UAE-India relations from a perspective of what it can achieve in the future, rather than just be confined to the past.
"Historically, even in the pre-oil era, the Arabian Gulf and India established relations via travel and trade. This created deep-rooted connections between the geographically distant regions - one that has survived the march of time.
"With the economic boom that was brought about by oil discoveries, the relationship has been governed more so by the commercial supply and demand economics. The Arabian Gulf countries have been a destination for thousands of blue collar workers who had flooded the region to join a labour force that was tasked, alongside others, in building massive infrastructure - one that constituted a basis for a modern state. In return, billions of earnings were repatriated back as India also became a recipient of a predominantly regionally provided oil. The UAE, of course, was no exception wherein trade relationships had strengthened over time as each side benefited economically from each other.
"But the circumstances today have vastly changed, not just for the UAE, but also for India as well. What each country has achieved over the decades has transformed its stance and status amongst nations. Furthermore, the geopolitical environment both in the region and globally has shifted on a variety of scales.
"For one thing, the region has witnessed the occasional syndrome of withdrawal by a major superpower. The US chose over the past few years an approach of either non-interference or a remote control 'hands off' policy approach with regards to several burning issues in the Middle East. What seemed like an 'on-off on-again' style created a vacuum that opened the doors for other destructive forces to step in. The region no longer belongs to a single hegemonic power; and the players are in abundance. At times, this was a blessing, yet on several occasions a curse as well.
"Hence, when it comes to relations between the UAE and India, the simplistic trade exchange is no longer the only binding element between the two countries. To confine the relationship to this decades old structure underestimates as much as undermines how complex both the UAE and India have evolved as nations of power.
"It is within this context that India can step in and strengthen its relations with the UAE and the rest of the Gulf countries. This offers an opportunity for it to play a positive part - one that goes beyond the limited historical role. It has a strong standing in Asia and with several south Asian countries, in addition to a significant presence within a wide range of international organisations. More importantly, no other country is better poised than the UAE when it comes to explaining and presenting the Arab stance and position on a plethora of issues and problems that are facing the Arab world today. It has established, over the past few years, a solid external outreach - one that has enabled it to become a country that can be counted upon in the region.
Al Rostamani concluded by saying, "The UAE has set course on several ambitious programmes in the fields of space exploration, development of education, arts and culture, technology, and renewable energy, to name a few. The areas of cooperation between the UAE and India is, therefore, poised to be one of strength for both nations as they have proficiencies that can be shared and learnt from each other."