Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United Arab Emirates has scored big on three fronts – terror, trade and outreach to the blue-collared Indian expatriate community.
While substance was evident in these three counts, his symbolic outreach to Muslims – in his maiden visit to an Islamic country – by visiting the Sheikh Zayed mosque and praising the inherent tenets of Islam was music to many.
Now, the substance.
Firstly, on counter-terrorism cooperation:
India and the UAE decided to call on all countries to dismantle terrorism infrastructure where they exist and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
This is a significant statement, especially since Pakistan is the unnamed country in this common ground. And the fact that fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim is known to have assets in the UAE and is reportedly seen in that country, this is a major step forward.
So, while the two countries condemned efforts by countries to use religion or justify, support and sponsor terrorism against others, they decided to coordinate efforts to counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups.
And, to buttress cooperation against terrorism, money-laundering and drug trafficking, they decided to have a security dialogue between the National Security Advisors of the two countries. The NSAs will meet, as frequently as every six months.
Secondly, trade and investments.
With Modi wooing the UAE’s investors for the infrastructure projects and opportunities upto a trillion-dollar potential, the two sides were able to establish the UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of USD 75 billion to support investment in India’s plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.
Also, they agreed to facilitate participation of Indian companies in infrastructure development in the UAE and promote strategic partnership in the energy sector.
Thirdly, the Prime Minister’s outreach to the blue-collared skilled workers in the UAE – where they constitute almost 2.6 million – is a politically astute move. He visited the Indian workers’ camp in Abu Dhabi and addressed the community in Dubai was meant to invoke the pride in India, and the UAE government allotted a land for a temple – as a gesture to reach out to the new Modi government.
This visit, which was planned at a fairly short notice, has also gone a step forward to mollify any misgivings in the Islamic world and the community – as Modi plans a visit to Israel later this year or early next year.