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India & UAE vow to ‘deepen’ strategic partnership on Modi’s first Gulf trip after Prophet row

On a whirlwind visit to Abu Dhabi, PM Narendra Modi met UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and thanked him for ‘taking great care of 3.5 million Indian community’.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan met Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, where both countries vowed to “deepen and diversify” their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

PM Modi visited the UAE on his way back from Germany — where India was invited to the G7 Summit as one of the partner countries — and stayed for a little over an hour. He met the UAE President on the premises of the Abu Dhabi airport.

During their meeting, both leaders reviewed the progress in the ‘vision statement’ unveiled during a virtual summit between India and the UAE in February. The statement lays down a road map for enhancing cooperation between both countries with a special focus on defence and security, and trade and investments.

“Both leaders reviewed various aspects of India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which they have carefully nurtured over the past few years,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a press release.

Modi last visited the UAE in August 2019.

The visit Tuesday assumed significance as it was Modi’s first to the Gulf after the diplomatic row triggered by the controversial remarks made by two now former spokespersons of the ruling BJP about the Prophet Muhammad.

As a result, there were concerns in India about a potential backlash that could hurt the livelihood of its vast expat community in the Gulf countries.

“Prime Minister thanked UAE President and Abu Dhabi Ruler Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for taking great care of the 3.5 million Indian community in the UAE, especially during Covid-19 pandemic,” the MEA said.

Modi was accompanied by National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval. Apart from the UAE president, they also met other members of the UAE royal family — NSA Sheikh Tahnoun, Deputy PM Sheikh Mansour, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) Managing Director Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah.

The discussions were mostly aimed at enhancing trade and investment cooperation.

India and the UAE signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in February this year with the aim of taking two-way trade to $100 billion by 2027, from $72 billion at present.

The UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner and second-largest export destination. Investment from the UAE in India has consistently increased over the past few years and currently stands at over $12 billion, according to the MEA.

“Both leaders expressed satisfaction that India and UAE continue to forge closer partnership in these areas building on their close and friendly relations and historical people-to-people connect. India-UAE have a strong energy partnership which is now acquiring new focus on renewable energy,” the MEA statement said.

Also Read: Modi and Trudeau talk security & trade in first bilateral meeting since 2018 debacle

Strengthening friendships

During the meeting, Modi also paid his condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, former UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi who passed away last month after prolonged illness.

MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a tweet that the “PM also congratulated Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on his election as the third President of the UAE and becoming the ruler of Abu Dhabi”.

Modi was to be in UAE in January but the visit was cancelled after an outbreak of the Omicron variant. Following the row over the former BJP spokespersons’ remarks, it was decided that the PM must conduct a whirlwind visit on his way back from Germany.

Modi also invited the President to visit India.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also Read: Modi pitches India’s emerging clean energy market at G7, urges member nations to invest


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