Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken his ‘Middle East outreach’ strategy up another notch by inviting Abu Dhabi’s crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade in 2017. The Crown Prince has significant influence over the security and geopolitical policy formation on the UAE. He also serves as the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
This will be the Crown Prince’s second visit to India after his three-day state visit in February this year. Abu Dhabi also has a significant amount of Indian diaspora, so it’s natural that the Indian government would take interest in improving relations with the country. Ever since he took over, Middle East has featured prominently in his foreign travel itinerary. The Indian Prime Minister has been keen on strengthening military ties as well with the country. India and Abu Dhabi have forged similar views on terrorism and expressed a joint commitment to fighting terrorism and eradicating it to the maximum extent possible.
PM Modi has tried to woo the Middle East during his tenure and this invitation marks a strong statement of intent to engage the Arab world. During his two years at the helm, the prime minister’s quickfire visits to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iran and other neighbouring countries has heralded a sea change in India’s strategic orientation towards the Middle East.
When PM Modi visited the UAE last year, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s joint statement with Modi reflected a diplomatic triumph for India. It’s a massive shift as it was the first visit by an Indian PM to the UAE in 34 years. Economic ties with India and an opportunity to tap into the massive advanced technology and services industries in India to diversify an economy dependent primarily on energy is a lucrative option for the Emirates.
Since PM Modi took charge, he has invited leaders like US President Barack Obama in 2015 and French President François Hollande in 2016 for the Republic Day parade, strengthening strategic and economic relations in the light of major deals and agreements that were in the offing.