Wednesday, June 29, 2011

UAE-India Ties Grow Stronger

Given regional challenges, the time has come for both countries United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India to look beyond trade and work together on sustainable development, food and water security and renewable energy
By Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan
Relationships among nations may be seen to be of two kinds. Some arise from strategic necessity, where states come together to oppose a common threat, or to pursue a common interest. Others arise more organically, the by-product of years of encounters, through trade and cultural exchange, and in friendships. UAE's historic relationship with India is of this latter kind: one that has grown out of centuries of exchange of people, culture, commodities and ideas.
For centuries, people have embarked on crossings between the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. From the first dhow-going seafarers, this relationship grew from barter trade into widespread people-to-people contacts and established penetrating commercial networks. These interactions were not simply about the movement of goods across the oceans; it became a tradition that led to the establishment of a trade route that has remained active until this day. It is this kind of historical context that lies behind the fact that in modern day, India and the UAE represent each other's largest trading partner, with a trade valued at around $44 billion (Dh161.60 billion) annually in non-oil sectors.
This relationship also resulted in the settlement of a large Indian population in the UAE. The role of the Indian community in the UAE is highly valued as its members have contributed to the UAE's growth, to the development of its infrastructure, its economy and the sharing of technological expertise.
Technological transfer continues today as India emerges as a leading force in technological and scientific advancement specifically in the fields of IT, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and bio-technology. On the cultural level, India has also been successful in establishing a multi- ethnic and multicultural society based on mutual respect, a value that the UAE regards very highly. In addition, the UAE remains deeply appreciative of India's long-standing position towards the Arab world.
Despite this much intertwined relationship, the UAE and India have followed very different trajectories in establishing their political and developmental paths, each with its own objective agenda and vision. Today, India sets itself to become one of the fastest-growing economies, currently on track to become the world's third largest economy by purchasing power parity by 2012.
India has also established itself as a global player in world affairs; a sure sign of this is its bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, a bid that the UAE has fully supported.
As the areas of instability in the region widen and the challenges become more complex, friendly nations should come even closer to contribute to peace and security in the region through forging committed and strategic partnerships. Recently, the Indian ambassador to the UAE said that "India recognises and appreciates the growing role of the UAE in regional and global affairs".
Areas of cooperation
In this context, the time is ripe for ties between India and the UAE to acquire a new dimension and transcend their traditional margins. The historic relationship that bonds the UAE and India is expanding, diversifying and emerging into a strategic partnership with an emphasis on cooperation in regional security and economics, as well as other areas of mutual interest. Both countries will benefit from joint efforts to effectively deal with the rising challenges in our neighbourhood.
In the area of defence, cooperation reached a new high with the first ever India-UAE air exercise and the second India-UAE Joint Defence Cooperation Committee meeting.
On regional security, India and the UAE face several challenges. In Afghanistan, the objective of rebuilding and ensuring its stability remains threatened by elements of terrorism, lawlessness and a growing drug trade.
Other regional challenges like combating terrorism is proving to become more complex, as terrorist organisations become more sophisticated in using technology and acquiring military equipment, as well as in spreading their cells across porous borders.
In addition to such challenges, other threats are arising in the region. Acts of piracy threatens the safety of regional waters and the security of supply routes. These dangers pose a challenge that must be dealt with effectively through coordinated efforts on the international and regional levels. Both India and the UAE stand to gain from intensified practical cooperation in these areas.
Peace and security must be pursued simultaneously with other important objectives. Working together in a practical manner within a framework of South-South cooperation, the UAE and India can cooperate in several areas such as sustainable development, food and water security, and renewable energy as well as enhancing inter-regional trade and investment. Another potential aspect of cooperation is in the field of technology transfer, and research and development, as both India and the UAE focus on knowledge-based industries.
Although the nature of the relationship between India and the UAE keeps developing and changing it must remembered that common views and shared principles between the two countries have been developing for years through partnership in the Non-Aligned Movement.
Also, India and the UAE have coordinated their positions at the UN on issues of vital concern such as the question of Palestine and issues like reform of the UN and global governance institutions that reflect the changing geopolitical realities and take into consideration a more equitable representation.
My visit to India will provide a valuable opportunity to further cement the warm and friendly relations that exist between our nations and take the partnership to strategic levels.
India and the UAE share important principles of respect for international relations, the peaceful settlements of disputes, respect for their neighbours and a desire for universal peace. The time has, therefore, now come to work together in joint action to the benefit of both nations.
-This commentary was published in The GULF NEWS on 29/06/2011
-Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the  UAE Foreign Minister

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