UAE and India: A century of strong relationship

The UAE's political, economic and cultural links with India, which date back to more than a century ago, are matured and multi-dimensional.

India needs the UAE for its fast growing energy needs and an estimated 2.5 million Indians live in the emirates, which is also a key investment market for India. In turn, the UAE exports a large part of its oil to India, which is increasingly becoming a key market for UAE products, tourists and investments.

Bilateral trade has been steadily growing over the years and people-to-people contacts are constantly on the increase.

Tourists from both sides are visiting for leisure and pleasure, and more and more UAE nationals are availing of healthcare and tourism facilities in India.

Close bonds between the Indian community and the nationals can be judged from the fact that the Indian community is the largest expatriate community in the UAE.

“Strong bonds of friendship between the UAE and India are poised to be further diversified and strengthened in months and years to come,” the former Indian Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmed has said.

“India-UAE relations are on the upswing. The two countries share bonds of cultural affinity and have strong commercial and cultural linkages. Our expanding ties cover the full range of economic, technical, social and cultural fields that are mutually beneficial for both peoples. Our relations are not determined by trade and economic aspects alone. Indians were present in the UAE long before oil was discovered and have played a vital role in the development of the country.”

Relations between the UAE and India were given a fresh push by last year’s visit to the emirates by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Diplomats said Modi’s visit to the UAE came at a turbulent time for West Asia while the GCC countries themselves are stable.

India’s interests in the GCC countries are intimately linked with its energy security, trade, employment for Indians, and remittances, they said.

According to official data, the UAE hosts more than 2.5 million Indians, the bulk of whom are blue-collar workers.

The stability of their jobs contributes to the welfare of their families back home. Moreover, the UAE has emerged as India’s second-largest trading partner and by virtue of a sizeable India diaspora an important source of remittances.

Given the economic and human security interests, the stability and security of the UAE and the other GCC countries is crucial for India.

Another important objective is the continuing fight against terrorism and allied criminal activities like money laundering.

Both aspects were mentioned by the UAE and India in their joint statement, which denounced and opposed terrorism in all forms and manifestations.

The statement called on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, no matter where and by whom it is committed, dismantle terrorism infrastructure where it exists, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.

In his speech, Modi emphasised this point and also announced that bilateral relations with the UAE would be upgraded to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The joint statement also lay out numerous platforms for cooperation in countering radicalism, misuse of religion to incite hatred, and perpetuating and justifying terrorism for political motives. For the first time, bilateral cooperation will extend to counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity building.

In a recent newspaper article, Shashwat Tiwari, a Strategic Affairs Researcher at Oval Observer Foundation, New Delhi, said that the agreement to establish a dialogue between the two National Security Advisers and the respective National Security Councils and other security cooperation mechanisms underline the growing security relationship between the UAE and India.

“This cooperation will encompass cyber security, maritime security, inter-operability, and collaboration for mitigating humanitarian and natural disasters in conflict zones. The two countries have also agreed to conduct joint defense exercises and enter into joint ventures for the manufacture of defense equipment,” he said.

“India’s energy and economic security is intertwined with the GCC. It is, therefore, logical that in the security domain, India should boost cooperation with the UAE.”

He said that this would be a new and significant initiative as the US, the primary security provider to the GCC countries, disengages from the region or reduces its profile.

“The U.S. is moving towards self-sufficiency in oil and gas, which is unshackling its energy security from sources in the region. For India, its future energy security will remain intimately tied with energy suppliers in the Middle East at least for the next 30 years. Hence, protecting energy supplies will remain one of the highest foreign policy priorities for India,” he said.

“As India and the U.S. also bolster their security and defense ties, synergies are emerging that can only be seen as a build up to a robust partnership between India and the GCC. Modi’s visit has opened doors for closer engagement with this region, at a time of significant global geo-strategic shifts.”

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