Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
India and UAE share strong relations owing to age old cultural and economic ties. The ties flourished after Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan took over as Sultan of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and creation of UAE in 1971. Since then, both sides have indulged in sincere efforts to improve relationship in all fields.
The renewed ties received impetus through frequent high level visits between the nations, especially when PM of India visited Abu Dhabi in 2016 after 34 years of the last visit by an Indian PM and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabhi was invited as Chief Guest at Republic Day parade, 2017.
What boosted the ties?
The geopolitical conditions are right for the improved and increased bilateral relation between India and UAE. The rise of Daesh on borders of UAE, low oil prices, shift to service oriented economy from oil based economy, US’s departure from oil imports reduced the oil exports, waning of US commitment to maintain security in Gulf and emergence of India as a growing economy led to realignment of interests which led to convergence of interests between both nations.
Importance of UAE
UAE has a strategic location in the Gulf. It has influence in the region through its policies on Libya, Yemen and Syria.
It has also moderate polices for Iran as well as Saudi Arabia where it tries to balance and maintain good ties without antagonising the other.
If also doesn’t support nor subscribes for extremis and terrorism. It strongly supports and finance moderate Islamic groups such as sufi foundations and conferences and has distanced from Saudi Arabia on certain matters inspite of having close relationship with it.
At UNGA last year, the UAE foreign minister said that the region is facing serious threats since WW-II from forces of extremism and UAE is trying to position itself in a manner to bring some moderation in the region.
It was earlier close to Pakistan but now has been expanding its outreach in Asia, and has been eyeing India in a larger context of nuclear capability, economic power, withdrawal syndrome, Chinese influence and US’s pivot to Asia policy.
Thus, India and UAE have seen a paradigm shift in their relationship where India is balancing its ties with with various nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE through PM’s visit and aiming to sustain and expand the relationship to other GCC countries.
UAE considered Pakistan its backbone in 1990s when it was looked upon as a last resort. It even supported the Taliban regime of Pakistan. Therefore, it was a strategic ally of Pakistan even if economic relationship with India was more. However, during the Yemen war when UAE and Saudi Arabia were fighting the rebels who were alleged to be incited by Shia Iran, Pakistan refused to provide with military support. This made UAE realise the importance and need of dependence on Pakistan.
UAE had invited PM to visit the state. However, India was not willing to increase its ties much as they were still close allies of Pakistan and hence the visits were futile. However, UAE had responded that the relationships were no longer the same and that is when frequent visits were made by NSA head to UAE before PM visited the state. Since then, UAE has looked forward to strengthening ties with India. Hence, when India was victim of terror attack in Pathankot and Uri, UAE was among the first ones to condemn such as act of terror, thereby solidifying its support to India against terrorism.
The trade relations of India with UAE is more than 50 billion USD and is seven times that of Pakistan’s trade with UAE. 14 new agreements have been signed between India and UAE where the bilateral relationship has been upgraded to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The trade and industry partnership have to complement each other and make the region peaceful and with growth opportunities. From the economic point of view, UAE is the largest trading partner of India.
Trade is important in the region as once the region settles down, demand will be created for goods and services and India can tap into this market.
The history of UAE investments in India has not been encouraging and it is expected to grow in near future as they are also interested in a steady income through its investments spread across the region.
Defence and security are expected to play a larger role in the bilateral relationship. Though India has conveyed that it has no interest in becoming the military power of the Gulf region, UAE has tried to convince India of becoming the same. The reason being India’s maximum military strength in the region, US has backed India in the region, Pakistan is useless and India wants to become a part of Gulf power. Hence, 10-20 years later, it will be logical for India to be a military power in Gulf.
The defence agreement signed between both the nations is a first step towards defence cooperation. Also, the participation of Arab troops in Republic day parade is a message that India is looking beyond the visits of the Indian ships at UAE’s ports. Previous government had signed a defence agreement with Qatar and Oman and it was expected that India will upgrade its presence in Gulf. Now Gulf countries are looking forward to India’s increased defence commitments. It is significant as these countries are monarchies and after Arab Spring, they want to safeguard their rules as well as region by the de-stabilisation caused by removing monarchs such as Gaddafi, Saleh and now attempts to remove Assad.
Recently, UAE diplomats were targeted in Afghanistan which was an indirect message from Pakistan about dangers of it coming close to India. Though, Taliban has repeatedly denied its involvement in the issue as it has always considered UAE an ally. Hence, the terror of Daesh has been threatening UAE and its security.
Thus, India’s terror concern coming from Pakistan and UAE’s concern coming from West Asia are effectively the same.
Though UAE has been increasing its closeness with India through extensive support (Dawood banned from UAE), agreements with India on terrorism, intelligence sharing and cooperation, it should not give the impression that it has abandoned Pakistan as a military player. As UAE and Pakistan get their military equipment from USA, UK and France and Pakistan military trains UAE forces, the closeness is bound to remain. Over and above, UAE has seen emergence of two factions where one supports India whereas other is for Pakistan. Thus, India should always be vigilant in its approach.
UAE is not an ally yet but the strategic partnership is first indicator. Good alliance is expected if India gets into more defence training and supply to it such as selling warships. That will be the real test of strategic relationship. Also, if UAE truly invests in Indian infrastructure as promised, then improvement in ties can be terms as progressive.
UAE has opened up its relations with China too and thus it is testing various strategies across the world as India to identify the allies.
For now, the strongest degree of convergence is with each other rather than other countries in the region.
Connecting the dots:
India and UAE relations are on growth trajectory. Examine.