Pacts with UAE, a boost to India

India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have taken a giant step towards establishing a comprehensive strategic partnership. During the visit of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to New Delhi, the two sides signed a general framework agreement that will provide such a partnership a solid foundation. Thirteen other pacts were signed in the fields of defence, security, trade and energy. Crucial among them is one that will enhance India’s energy security. Under this pact, India will lease out a part of its strategic crude oil storage facility at Mangaluru to Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). In return, India would have first rights to the stored oil in the event of an emergency. The UAE occupies an important place on India’s foreign policy radar. It is India’s third largest trade partner and bilateral trade was worth over $60 billion in 2014-15. That India sees the UAE as an crucial partner is evident from the fact that it invited the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to participate in the Republic Day parade as the guest of honour. While Al Nahyan’s visit was productive overall, there is some disappointment over the failure of the two countries to sign a memorandum of understanding pertaining to a $75-billion investment fund for infrastructure development in India. Indian officials say that talks on the fund are at an advanced stage but it is evident that there are serious sticking points preventing them from finalising a deal. A framework is needed to clarify how the fund will be administered and in which sectors it can be invested, and so long as this is delayed, Emirati funding will remain elusive to India.

The UAE has had strong relations with Pakistan for decades, especially in the field of defence. However, the relationship has come under strain of late. The UAE is concerned over the rise of the Islamic State and is uneasy with Pakistan’s support to terrorist groups, which was underscored recently when five Emirati diplomats were killed in Kandahar in an attack by the Pakistan-backed Haqqani network. This has prompted the UAE to review its support to Pakistan and consider cooperating with India on countering terrorism. This rethink was evident when the UAE endorsed India’s surgical strikes on terror camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Both sides have much to gain from greater counter-terrorism cooperation. In addition to intelligence sharing, India should nudge the UAE to send back terrorists and other criminals wanted in this country. It should use the UAE as a bridge to greater counter-terrorism cooperation with other Arab countries.

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