Modi’s Gulf diplomacy: India, UAE join hands to combat Islamic State

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ABU DHABI/DUBAI: Against the backdrop of the emergence of the Islamic State as the top security threat to the region, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for intensifying counter-terror cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, the first Gulf country he has visited after taking charge in May last year.  

As Mr Modi arrived in the UAE on a two-day visit on August 16, the first visit by an Indian prime minister to the Gulf dynamo in 34 years, he was accorded a grand welcome and was received by none other than the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his five brothers.  

Speaking about the agenda of his visit, Mr Modi said in an in an interview to Khaleej Times that he wanted to see    the UAE as India’s top partner in trade and counter-terrorism, while noting that both countries had a range of  common security and strategic concerns in the region including extremism. “We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India’s economic, energy and security interests,” he said.

The UAE has identified the ISIS as the principal regional threat to regional security. UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan has been vocal in ongoing efforts to build a larger global anti-IS coalition.  “The UAE, therefore, calls upon the international community and member states to cooperate in combating these terrorist groups and take comprehensive measures to fight them through a clear, unified strategy,” he told the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.  

Building a stronger security partnership is intimately linked with India’s plans to bolster economic partnership with the UAE. Prime Minister Modi evocatively described the host country as a paradise built in a desert with “unmatched vision”. With the UAE having sovereign wealth fund of close to USD 800 billion, Mr Modi’s core objective is to promote India as an attractive destination for the UAE. The UAE, home to 45,000 Indian companies, is the tenth biggest investor in India and has pumped in FDI worth more than USD 3 billion into Asia’s third largest economy.

Beginning his regional engagement with the UAE that reflects the importance of this relationship, Mr. Modi said he would like to see a truly comprehensive strategic partnership evolve between both the countries.

 

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