Reasons for India’s Overreach to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Requirement of Realignment of T

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In an unprecedented departure from the convention, the Narendra Modi government, on the occasion of the nation’s 68th Republic Day, invited a contingent of 179 United Arab Emirates (UAE) soldiers to participate in the parade at the national capital’s majestic “Rajpath”.

The UAE’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE was the guest of honour at this year’s Republic Day celebrations.


Though, last year also, the French contingent participated in the Republic Day parade, when the French President François Hollande was the Chief Guest for Republic Day celebrations. However, unlike the previous year, displaying a special gesture of respect this time around, the UAE contingent was allowed to lead the parade.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been very upfront with his initiative to reach out to the Middle East nations, especially UAE, with varied objectives in mind. We shall discuss the same in the ensuing paragraphs.

India-UAE Relations

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates, and was established on 02 December 1971. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi (which is the largest and serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.

Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch and together, they jointly form the ‘Federal Supreme Council’. One of the monarchs is selected as the President of the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Zayed, ruler of Abu Dhabi and the first President of the UAE, oversaw the development of the Emirates and steered oil revenues into healthcare, education and infrastructure.

The ties between India and the United Arab Emirates have been traditionally close on account of commerce, culture and kinship and dates back to 3000BC.

People-to-people contacts and barter trade for clothes and spices from India in exchange for dates and pearls from the region have existed for centuries.

At present, UAE is home to nearly 2.6 million Indians, who are playing a major role in its nation building. The Indian expatriates constitute 15 and 20 percent professionally qualified personnel, 20 percent white-collar non-professionals (clerical staff, shop assistants, sales men, accountants, etc), and the remainder 65 percent comprises blue-collar workers.


The Indian expats at UAE significantly contribute towards the Indian economy, with an annual remittance of about 15-17 billion.

PM Modi had commenced his engagement with UAE, with an official two day visit to the country in August 2015, and had held extensive talks with the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Dubai.

The most significant highlight of the visit was that the Indo-UAE relationship was elevated to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’. Thus, turning a new chapter in the Indo-UAE relationship after a long gap of 34 years, as the last PM of India to have visited UAE was Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1981.


The key areas of cooperation charted out during this very meaningful engagement included, trade and investment, defence, security, maritime security and intelligence sharing.

The two countries have further consolidated the “strategic partnership” by signing 16 pacts in various fields during the recent visit of the Crown Prince of UAE to India.

Reasons for India’s Overreach to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Requirement of Realignment of Ties with the Middle East Nations

Source of Energy Import: The primary reason for India’s overreach to the UAE is that, UAE is India’s gateway to West Asia in general and the Gulf region in particular, and most importantly, the region is the source of 70 percent of India’s energy imports.

The UAE is a significant contributor to India’s energy security and was the fifth largest supplier of crude oil in 2015-16.

Employment to India’s Workforce:The Gulf region provides employment to a lot of Indians with diverse skill sets.

Indian expatriate labour constitutes around 30 percent of the total population of the UAE, and Indian workforce has a significant presence in Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar.

Economic Interdependence: The second major reason for forging better ties with UAE is the economic interdependence. Indo-UAE trade stands at $50 billion, making the UAE India’s third largest trading partner for the year 2015-16, after China and the US.

It may be noted that, the UAE is the second largest export destination for India with an amount of over $ 30 billion for the year 2015-16. And of course for UAE, India is the largest trading partner for the year 2015 with an amount of over $ 28 billion (non-oil trade).

Further, fortunately for India, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have adopted a ‘Look East Policy’ and are looking for promoting long term economic and trade relations with countries like India. Thus, India needs to reciprocate and consolidate upon this initiative taken by the GCC, especially UAE.

In order to bring out the relative significance of Indo-UAE trade, whileof the total Indo-GCC bilateral trade of $ 97,467.61 million, Indo-UAE trade accounted in this to the extent of $ 49,745.95 million.

Investments in Developing Infrastructure in India: The UAE is the tenth biggest investor in India in terms of FDI. There is an estimated $8 billion UAE investment in India of which around $4.03 billion is in the form of foreign direct investment, while the remaining is portfolio investment.

The favourable investment climate in India is expected to draw other GCC states such as Saudi Arabia, and Oman, besides the UAE, also to invest in India and participate in its planned infrastructure expansion.

Fillip to Indian Investments in UAE: The Gulf States are interested in human resources from India to develop sectors in which India is proficient, like information technology, construction, transportation, and services.

There are several prominent private and public sector Indian companies and banks (60,000 Indian companies in total) that are already operating in the UAE, including companies such as L&T, ESSAR, Dodsal, Punj Lloyd, Engineers India Ltd. and TCIL.

Cooperation on Security Concerns:A sizeable trade to India flows through the Gulf of Eden, which is fraught with piracy and terrorism.

In order to provide protection to commercial vessels, Indian warships have also been deployed in the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy patrols on the route usually followed by Indian commercial vessels between Salalah (Oman) and Aden (Yemen).

Tackling Terrorism and Growth of Radicalism The UAE is a Muslim country, which is at the same time a modern country, without any direct linkages between terrorism and religion.

It shares India’s concerns about growing threats of terrorism and radicalisation worldwide. During the official interaction between PM Modi and the Crown Prince of UAE, of the 31 points that were discussed 17 pertained to security.

The major aspects that were discussed and agreed upon for putting in coordinated efforts included: counter radicalization and misuse of religion by groups and countries; denounce and oppose terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; enhance cooperation in counter terrorism, intelligence sharing and capacity building; promote cooperation in cyber security; establish a dialogue between the national security advisors and the national security council’s; cooperate in maritime security and strengthen defence relations; and establish a strategic security dialogue.

Access the Strategic Choke Points Connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean: An important component of India’s overreach to UAE and the other Gulf nations is to be able to keep a vigilant eye on the important choke points through which the flow of India’s trade takes place to West Asia and Europe.

The same was only possible by way of developing defence-cooperation with both Iran on the one hand and Gulf countries on the other.

Moreover, The Indian Navy has undertaken a series of naval exercises with a number of Gulf States in the recent years, thereby lending its hand to Indian diplomacy in expanding India’s reach in the region.

Maintaining a Balanced Disposition in the Middle East: The Modi government has been able to walk the tight rope with respect to developing all round relations with Israel on the one hand and Iran on the other, PM’s visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE dispelled the notion that India’s strategic goals in West Asia, the country’s “extended neighbourhood,” had any malice.

Royal Snub to Pakistan: The UAE, like Saudi Arabia, are old strategic allies of Pakistan. The UAE, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were the only three countries to recognize the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

The UAE has made a critical shift in its policy, since then, and has openly backed India on terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil.

The acceptance of India’s invitation by the Crown Prince of UAE to not only be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade, but also, make its contingent march shoulder to shoulder with Indian troops, has a much deeper symbolic significance that may qualify for a “royal snub” to Pakistan.


The diplomatic overreach extended by India to UAE on its 68th Republic Day defines its continued efforts to harness India’s stakes in a region, which is passing through a phase of momentous change.

There are regional pressures of ethnic divide and fight for dominance to control the resources in the region, happening in the backdrop of external forces exerting pressure to realign loyalties for personal gains.

India’s interests lies in the emergence of a stable balance of power in this region which is presently beleaguered by multiple fault-lines.