India-UAE ties are on 'fast track'
DUBAI: As a natural progression in ties, which now have a strategic element in them, a visit by Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to the UAE is slated later this year.
"Strategic dialogue between India and the UAE remains important and both countries have joined hands to further cement this bond, the relations are now on the fast track," said K.C. Singh, the outgoing Indian ambassador.
Singh is to take over as India's ambassador to Iran next month after spending over four years in the UAE.
"There has been a steady upswing in relations between the two countries, marked particularly by the recent visit to New Delhi of the UAE delegation led by Lt. Gen. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chief of staff of the UAE Armed Forces," Singh told IANS.
The high-level UAE delegation visited India from June 29 to July 1 during which the two countries decided to institute an annual strategic dialogue to cooperate in various fields, from economy to energy and defence.
Singh said the signing of a military cooperation agreement between the UAE and India in New Delhi will serve as a framework for future cooperation in that area.
"India has engaged the UAE in a strategic dialogue and the military agreement has opened up a new confidence that will also open up new areas in economic relations."
"The visit of the UAE delegation has raised the level of interaction and has created a framework for regular, broad-based bilateral consultation," Singh said.
In the field of commerce, Singh said India was second only to the United States in terms of exports to the UAE, which stood at $3 billion, while the UAE was ranked at number six among exporters to India.
Both sides have sought to boost the figure to $5 billion.
Indian exports, which stood at a little over $2 billion in 1999-2000, today exceed $3 billion. India also imported around $800 million worth of goods from the UAE in 2002-03.
"We hope to see bilateral trade cross $5 billion. The need for benchmarks was underlined in the discussions of Lt. Gen. Sheikh Mohammed with Yashwant Sinha, India's external affairs minister, during the strategic dialogue in July in New Delhi."
Bilateral trade, though in India's favour, is diversified and contains a large basket of goods. Imports from the UAE include precious stones, organic and inorganic chemicals, machinery, iron and steel, fertiliser, electronic goods, leather, readymade garments, transport equipment, metal scraps, gold and some other items.
Over 500 Indian companies have invested in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, 5,700 companies in Dubai, 3,800 in Sharjah and over 300 in the Jebel Ali Free Zone.
Another new area of cooperation between the two countries is entrepreneurship training. Since 1998, young entrepreneurs from the UAE have been sent to India for exposure and for hands-on training in industries of their choice. This year, some women entrepreneurs went to India for training.
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