Defence relations between the UAE and its main economic and trading partner India have largely developed over the past decade and are set to expand further following high-level visits between two countries.
Relations in this field took a new turn after the visit to Abu Dhabi in August 2015 by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who agreed with UAE officials to boost defence cooperation and establish a “strategic security dialogue” to counter terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking and trans-national crimes.
A joint statement during the visit said the two sides agreed to work together to control, regulate and share information on the flow of funds that could have a bearing on radical activities and cooperate in preventing illegal flows and take action against individuals and organizations involved in such operations.
Both countries also agreed to establish a dialogue between their national security advisers and their national security council.
“The national security advisers, together with other high level representatives for security from both nations, will meet every six months,” the statement said.
It said the two sides also agreed to strengthen defence and military relations, including regular exercises and training of naval, land and special forces, and in coastal defence.
Diplomats expect relations in defence, economy and other fields between the UAE and India will take a fresh impetus during the visit to New Delhi by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
“The UAE and India have common interests in promoting their defence cooperation, mainly in the naval field. The two countries believe stability in the Gulf is vital for all,” an Abu Dhabi-based diplomat said.
“As for the UAE, stability is crucial for its oil exports and its imports from other countries. India has the same interests as it gets most of its oil imports from the UAE and other Gulf countries. India will be hit hard in case the strategic Hormuz Strait is blocked since it is the only gateway to the Gulf.”
India, a fast-growing arms exporter, is also one of the largest exhibitors at Abu Dhabi’s international defence show (IDEX), which it sees as a major platform to promote its military products in the Gulf, one of the world’s largest spenders on weapons.
“Bilateral Defence Interaction between India and UAE has been steadily growing in consonance with other aspects of the bilateral relationship.
"There have been regular high level exchanges at the level of Service Chiefs, functional level exchanges and military education exchanges between the countries,” the Indian Embassy in Abu Dubai said in a recent report.
“The ships of the Navies of both countries have regularly made port calls enhancing bilateral defence co-operation. India and UAE hold an Annual Defence Dialogue to discuss the security and defence co-operation issues between the two countries.”
It said defence co-operation between the two countries is steered through a Joint Defence Co-operation Committee at the Ministry level and Naval Staff Talks at the HQ level which identified new areas of co-operation between the two nations.
A permanent resident Defence Adviser has been posted to this Mission with effect from March 2013, it said, adding that after the establishment of the DA’s office, bilateral defence co-operation has been strengthened further, notably in the field of defence training and regular exchange programmes.
The report said that there have been numerous goodwill visits of Indian Naval Ships to the UAE, including three Indian Ships, INS Teer, INS Krishna and Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Veer a few years ago.
Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Western Naval Command visited UAE in Sep 2013 to further strengthen the Naval co-operation, it said.
A delegation from National Defence College of India visited UAE as a part of Strategic Neighborhood Study tour in Sep 2013. India also sent a representational JS level delegation to Dubai Air Show 2013 while greater interaction between the armed forces of both countries is under progress.
Officials and diplomats believe Modi’s two-day official visit to Abu Dhabi last year charted a new course in partnership between the two countries for the 21st century.
The leaders in the two countries agreed on the following:
— Elevate the India-UAE relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.
— Coordinate efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims. The two sides will facilitate regular exchanges of religious scholars and intellectuals and organise conferences and seminars to promote the values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and welfare that is inherent in all religions.
— Denounce and oppose terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, calling on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
— Enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity building.
— Work together for the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
— Work together to control, regulate and share information on flow of funds that could have a bearing on radicalization activities and cooperate in interdicting illegal flows and take action against concerned individuals and organizations.
— Strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, other trans-national crimes, extradition arrangements, as well as police training.
— Promote cooperation in cyber security, including prevention on use of cyber for terrorism, radicalization and disturbing social harmony.
— Establish a dialogue between their National Security Advisors and National Security Councils.
— Cooperate to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of both countries.
— Promote collaboration and inter-operability for humanitarian assistance and evacuation in natural disasters and conflict situations.
— Strengthen defence relations, including through regular exercises and training of naval, air, land and Special Forces, and in coastal defence. India warmly welcomed UAE's decision to participate in International Fleet Review in India in February 2016.
— Cooperate in manufacture of defence equipment in India.
— Work together to promote peace, reconciliation, stability, inclusiveness and cooperation in the wider South Asia, Gulf and West Asia region.
— Support efforts for peaceful resolution of conflicts and promote adherence to the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the conduct of relations between nations and settlement of disputes.
— Call on all nations to fully respect and sincerely implement their commitments to resolve disputes bilaterally and peacefully, without resorting to violence and terrorism.
— Establish a Strategic Security Dialogue between the two governments.
— Recognising that India is emerging as the new frontier of investment opportunities, especially with the new initiatives by the Government to facilitate trade and investment, encourage the investment institutions of UAE to raise their investments in India, including through the establishment of UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of USD 75 billion to support investment in India's plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.
— Facilitate participation of Indian companies in infrastructure development in UAE.
— Promote strategic partnership in the energy sector, including through UAE's participation in India in the development of strategic petroleum reserves, upstream and downstream petroleum sectors, and collaboration in third countries.
— Tap India's expertise in Small and Medium Enterprises to create a vibrant industrial base in UAE, which could also be of benefit to Indian enterprises.
— Strengthen cooperation between UAE's increasingly sophisticated educational institutions and India's universities and higher research institutions. Promote scientific collaboration, including in the areas of renewable energy, sustainable development, arid agriculture, desert ecology, urban development and advanced healthcare.
— Promote cooperation in Space, including in joint development and launch of satellites, ground-based infrastructure and space application. Prime Minister Modi welcomed UAE's plan to set up the West Asia's first Space Research Centre at Al Ain and plans to launch a Mars Mission in 2021.