Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the UAE on a two-day, two-city trip on August 16 and 17, in a move focussed on better cooperation on energy and trade, reach out to investors and also visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Modi will be the first Indian PM to visit the UAE after 34 years. The last PM to visit the UAE was Indira Gandhi in 1981.
The PM's visit to the Gulf region significantly comes ahead of President Pranab Mukhrerjee's trip to Israel in October, the first visit by an Indian head of state to that country, ties with whom have considerable ramification on the domestic politics in India. Mukherjee will also visit Palestine and Jordan.
"UAE is a valued partner and the extent of our ties indicate the vibrant relations India and UAE enjoy - India is UAE's seconnd largest trading partner and UAE is India's third largest trade partner," PM Modi said in a statement on Thursday.
Boost to business
During the visit, Modi will seek enhanced bilateral cooperation in energy and trade and reach out to investors in the UAE, which has a sovereign wealth fund of more than $800 billion, to promote India as an attractive business destination.
"The economic strides taken by UAE are extremely admirable. UAE is a global economic success story that has attracted people from all over the world. UAE has also emerged as an important logistics hub. UAE and India’s strong partnership goes back several years. Both are multicultural societies that respect and celebrate plurality and diversity," said the PM.
The two sides are working on areas like investment, trade, energy and security, with a special focus on diaspora ties, to have 'substantial outcomes' during Modi's visit to the UAE, which has 2.6 million Indians who work there and remit more than $13 billion annually.
The UAE, the sixth largest source of oil import to India, was the third largest trading partner of the country in 2014-15, after the US and China, with a bilateral trade of $60 billion.
The foreign direct investment to India from the UAE is over $3.01 billion now. The UAE is a key country India is looking for investments, especially in the infrastructure.
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) announced its plans of investing $2 billion in Indian infrastructure sector way back in 2013.
"There are issues that need to be addressed in fast tracking the investment that we are doing," PTI quoted a source as saying. "Energy is another sector where investment can come," he added.
Security is another major area of cooperation between India and UAE which have treaties and agreements on extradition, mutual legal assistance in criminal and civil matters, combating trafficking in narcotics and information cooperation apart from the maritime interaction.
During his overnight visit, Modi will first travel to Abu Dhabi and then to Dubai on August 17. PM Modi will hold extensive talks with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president and Prime Minister of the UAE.
In Abu Dhabi, the PM will visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a key place of worship in UAE and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture which can accommodate around 40,000 people. The mosque was constructed between 1996 and 2007.
He will also visit the Masdar City, which is a zero carbon city which relies on solar energy and other renewable energy sources.
Engaging with the diaspora
The Prime Minister will also address a huge gathering of the members of Indian community at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, on the lines of the event held in Madison Square Garden in New York last year, on the second day of his visit.
Modi in his statement had talked about the diaspora saying, "They have contributed immensely to the progress of UAE and also given back to India at every occasion... I specially look forward to meeting the large community of Indian workers based in UAE. No words will be enough to appreciate their hard work and sweat over the last many years."
According to the oraganisers, "more than 50,000 Indians have registered" for the public reception for which a dedicated website and Facebook page have been hosted.
"He is on a strategic trip to the UAE, I want our Indian community to take full advantage of this trip," Indian businessman BR Shetty told Gulf News.
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, who has a key role in planning the PM's foreign visits, especially the diaspora engagements, said the diaspora in the UAE is a different cross-section of people and shows the unity of a diverse Indian diaspora in the best possible way.
"The message of addressing this diaspora event is very clear. Whether you are an Indian software professional based out of the West coast of the US or a blue collar worker in the Gulf, you both belong to India and Prime Minister treats them with equal concern. The message is that the government of India including the Prime Minister is solidly behind the diaspora Indians. He is keen on engaging the Indian workers," said Madhav.
Organisers have made elaborate arrangements for the event, including an ambitious plan to air-condition the open air stadium as well as distribute free food and water to the audience, the Gulf News reported. The organisers said the air-conditioning system will be switched on a day before to ensure the place is sufficiently cool on the day of the event, the report added.
Dubai temperatures are as high as 42 degrees Celsius and the humidity is almost 60% in the evening.
(With agency inputs)