Indians form 30% of UAE’s population. Remittances from NRIs from UAE to India were US$43 billion in 2020.
DUBAI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the UAE in February 2022 will be his fourth visit to the county as Prime Minister. The Indian leader will also visit the Dubai Expo and sign the India-UAE Free Trade Agreement. PM Modi will visit the Indian Pavilion at the Expo, showcasing India’s culture and achievements, from yoga and ayurveda to space programme. The pavilion also has a model of the Ram Temple and BAPS Hindu Temple, which is being built in Abu Dhabi at an estimated cost of Rs 900 crore.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UAE in 2015, it was already 34 years since an Indian PM had visited the country, which has the highest Indian population living outside of India. As per a United Nations report in 2020, 18 million Indians live outside of India, and the top destination for Indians is UAE (3.5 million), followed by the United States and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Indians form 30% of UAE’s population. The remittances from NRIs from UAE to India were US$43 billion in 2020 according to the World Bank, even during the pandemic. In 2017, the average number of weekly flights from UAE to India was 1,067. Of the 19 billionaires in UAE, 14 are Indians. UAE is the third largest export and import partner of India. UAE has committed $100 billion for investment and infrastructure creation in India.
India and UAE have had a “Comprehensive strategic Partnership” and engagement in recent times. UAE has conferred its highest civilian award, the “Order of Zayed” on PM Modi. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi has visited India twice during PM Modi’s tenure, including being the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2017. In August this year. India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar put the India-UAE relationship in perspective: “India and UAE share a fast-growing relationship. UAE is central to India’s extended neighbourhood. We see UAE on the crossroads of the international trade. As Singapore is to the East, UAE is to the West.”
Recently, UAE has entered into an agreement to invest in Jammu and Kashmir. UAE was among the first countries that backed India on the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir, with its Ambassador to India, Dr Al Banna regarding the decision as India’s internal matter.
From the cultural perspective, the UAE has fast emerged as a very tolerant society and respecting diversity in its population despite Islam being its official religion. It is probably the only country in the world to have a Minister for Happiness and a Minister for Tolerance and Co-existence. The UAE this year became the first Gulf nation to open an embassy in Israel, nearly a year after both countries signed an agreement to normalise diplomatic ties. This month, Dubai became the first government in the world to become 100% paperless and digital. Moreover, UAE has announced from 1 January to have a 4-and-a-half-day week, which is aimed at maintaining a work-life balance. This is set to benefit the Indian human capital based in UAE and attract more manpower from India.
The upcoming visit by PM Modi (that got rescheduled to February due to rising Covid cases) will become a milestone after the Free Trade Agreement is signed and stakeholders hope that bilateral trade will reach $100 billion by 2025.
Ravi Chand is an NRI educationalist based in Dubai; founder, AmbedkarGlobal.com.