India, UAE elevate relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (Roundup)

New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) India and the UAE on Wednesday elevated their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership while signing 14 agreements, including on energy security and defence cooperation, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the Gulf nation as “an important partner in India’s growth story”.

A much anticipated agreement on a joint investment fund, after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) committed $75 billion to India’s infrastructure sector, however, was left to be signed.

Though it was already agreed that the relationship between the two countries would be elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Wednesday’s agreement is a general framework agreement which highlights the areas of bilateral cooperation identified under the comprehensive strategic partnership as agreed upon in the high level joint statements issued in August 2015 during Modi’s visit to the UAE and in February 2016 during Sheikh Mohamed’s visit to India, according to information released by the External Affairs Ministry.

In a joint address to the media with visiting Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan here following delegation-level talks, Modi said the UAE was one of India’s “most valued partners and a close friend in an important region of the world”.

“We regard the UAE as an important partner in India’s growth story,” Modi said. “I particularly welcome the UAE’s interest in investing in India’s infrastructure sector.”

Stating that work was on to connect the institutional investors of the UAE with India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund, he said the Gulf nation “can benefit by linking with our growth in manufacturing and services”.

“We can jointly tap abundant opportunities in our initiatives aimed at building digital economy, human capital and smart urbanisation in India.

“We are also encouraging and facilitating business and industry of both countries to increase the quality and quantum bilateral trade.”

Stating that the energy partnership was “an important bridge in our linkages”, Modi said he and Sheikh Mohamed “discussed ways to transform our energy ties in a strategic direction through specific projects and proposals”.

“In this regard, long-term supply contracts and establishment of joint ventures in the energy sector can be beneficial avenues,” he said.

The UAE contributes significantly to India’s energy security and was the fifth largest supplier of crude oil in 2015-16.

Among the agreements signed on Wednesday was one between Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) on storage and management of oil at strategic facilities in India. This agreement aims to establish a framework for the storage of crude oil by ADNOC in India and to further strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries in the field of energy.

Modi said security and defence cooperation was another area that “have added growing new dimensions to our relationship”.

“We have agreed to expand our useful cooperation in the field of defence to new areas including in the maritime domain.

“The MoU (memorandum of understanding) on defence cooperation, signed earlier today, will help steer our defence engagements in the right direction.”

The MoU aims to establish cooperation in the identified fields of defence manufacturing and technology, including through studies, research, development, innovation and cooperation between public and private sector institutions of the two countries. The two sides will cooperate in areas of armaments, defence industries and transfer of technology.

Modi also called for growing engagement between the two countries to counter violence and extremism.

On his part, Sheikh Mohamed said that it was “refreshing to see how the Indian leadership is keen to strengthening relations with the UAE”.

“Fostering our relationship with India is a strategic choice for the UAE under the leadership of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, especially in light of our identical views on regional and international issues,” he stated.

Sheikh Mohamed also said that “the UAE with its unique development experience and Islamic and Arab background and India with its inimitable and successful development experience and its unique model of coexistence, can work together to push for peace and stability in Asia and the Middle East”.

The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, who arrived here on Tuesday on a three-day visit to India, will be the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations on Thursday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the visiting dignitary was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Meanwhile, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, was lit up in the saffron, while and geen of the national flag to mark the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s visit to India for Republic Day. The UAE is also home to around 2.6 million expatriate Indians.

–IANS

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