Why PM Modi’s visit to UAE matters: Bridging the Gulf

The 27th sojourn by Prime Minister Narendra Modi outside the country to United Arab Emirates August on 16-17 is significant and remarkable not only because he is the first prime minister to go to this country after Indira Gandhi’s visit 34 years ago. Nor also because he is visiting a country which contributes about 15% of the total inward remittances (USD 15.7 billion out of a total of USD 69 billion received by India from all over the world in 2014-15). Nor even for the fact that Indians constitute about 30% of the total population (2.6 million out of a total population that is a shade above 9 million, less than half the population of Delhi). The visit is exceptional because this will be the first visit by Prime Minister Modi to West Asia, to a Muslim country and to a Gulf Arab country. This is one region that Mr Modi has not visited so far, although he has straddled across hemispheres over the last 14 months of his tenure.

PM Modi’s choice of UAE to be the first country of his visit in the energy-rich but troubled region is as compelling and momentous as was his choice of Bhutan to be the country for his first bilateral visit after assuming power. PM Modi is giving the same importance to UAE as he gave to India’s neighbours like Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh by making this a single country tour and not combining it with other countries. This also sends out a clear message that UAE occupies the same importance and relevance in India’s foreign policy matrix as its immediate neighbours.

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