NEW DELHI: Narendra Modi could visit the United Arab Emirates on August 16-17, marking the first trip by an Indian prime minister since Indira Gandhi went there 34 years ago, as India seeks to energise energy, trade and security partnership with the oil-rich Gulf country.
The visit, if it materialises, will be in line with Modi’s strategy of addressing meets in countries that have substantial Indian diaspora and is likely to include a meeting of the prime minister with the expat community in Dubai
Ever since India announced that Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, officials have been discussing possible visits to the Gulf nations ahead of the Tel Aiv trip as a balancing act.
The UAE has been expecting a visit by an Indian PM for the past one decade. Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh twice made plans to visit the UAE but the plans did not materialise.
Officials said the PM’s trip will be significant in the backdrop of current political churning in West Asia where USA has moved closer to Iran, keeping its traditional partners in the region on tenterhooks. Besides, militant organisation ISIS has emerged as a common threat not only in the region but also for India.
The UAE has emerged as a key source of foreign direct investment for India.
With total FDI from the UAE estimated at $3.01 billion as of January, the country ranked as tenth biggest investor in India, according to figures available with the external affairs ministry.
Indians count among important investors in the UAE and India as an important export destination for the UAE manufactured goods.
India-UAE trade in 2014-15 was about $60 billion, making the UAE India’s third largest trading partner for the year, after China and the US.
The UAE was the second largest export destination for India in 2014-15, with exports totalling more than $33 billion. And it was the sixth largest import source of crude oil for India during the year.
India and the UAE share old shipping and people-to-people links.
About 2.6 million Indians comprise the largest expatriate community in the UAE, according to the external affairs ministry. Professionally qualified personnel constitute 15-20 per cent of the community while white-collar non-professionals (clerical staff, shop assistants, sales men, accountants, etc) number about 20 per cent and about 65 per cent are blue-collar workers.
There is also a large business community of Indian origin in the UAE. In 2013, the remittances made by the Indian community in the UAE amounted to over $15 billion.
Besides burgeoning trade, the two countries have forged security and counter-terror partnership over the years. Experts said that the UAE government helped India with information on fugitives and terror groups active in South Asia.