Within weeks of the PM's visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan arrived in India on Thursday with a 95-member delegation cutting across sectors as diverse as renewable energy to defence, security, tourism and higher education.
The visit was bumped up from being a normal visit by a foreign minister with Al Nahyan meeting defence minister Manohar Parrikar, as well as railways minister Suresh Prabhu apart from Sushma Swaraj with whom he conducted the joint commission meeting. Significantly, national security adviser Ajit Doval held a dinner for the visiting foreign minister. While the business component of the visit saw progress in a number of key collaborations, Anil Wadhwa, secretary east in MEA clarified that it was a "congruence of geopolitical interests" that has put an "already robust relationship on a faster track" after the August visit by PM Modi.
An MEA statement issued at the end of Al Nahyan's visit said, "The two sides agreed to increase the bilateral trade by 60% over the next five years and also to encourage the investment institutions of the UAE to raise their investments in India, including through the establishment of UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of $75 billion."
At the security level, both countries will now cooperate against terrorism, including intelligence sharing on transnational networks based in third countries. This is the first sign that Pakistan-sponsored terror groups may soon find their room for operation in UAE getting squeezed. The fight against IS constituted a big part of the agenda, focusing on the need to ensure "the root causes of their progress are stopped, and that is basically financing, who are the people who finance them, how do they sustain themselves, which is the way that countries can elaborate on a global scale," Wadhwa said.
India has promised to clean up its own act regarding UAE's investments. Wadhwa mentioned there were "legacy issues" with some UAE investments which had got mired in typical Indian bureaucratic red-tape, which the Modi government plans to unclog and put back on track. India and UAE are also looking at cooperating in new sectors such as defence production, renewable energy, IT and IT businesses and manufacturing of electronics. Both countries will draw up a list of projects in defence production, while minister of commerce, Nirmala Sitharaman will be taking a big Indian delegation to the UAE in the near future to take the economic relationship forward.
UAE, Wadhwa said, will participate in building India's strategic petroleum reserves, for which India has agreed to resolve some of the pending issues. Indian companies have also expressed interest in participating in upstream projects in UAE's oil sector.
UAE's Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan said, "We are determined to attract more investment into India in various sectors. I am extremely keen to hear and listen from you some of the proposals, especially Make in India, Digital India and Smart City initiatives." The UAE also offered to cooperate with India and Indian companies in third countries particularly in Africa.