India’s new UAE envoy signals closer engagement with Gulf

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) Keeping up the focus on its ‘Link West’ policy of outreach to the Gulf nations, India has appointed a senior diplomat as its envoy to the UAE, which is home to a huge Indian diaspora and a key source of energy supplies and remittances.

Navdeep Suri was named as India’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) even before he completed his term as High Commissioner to Australia.

His appointment was announced on October 17, a little more than three months prior to the visit of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan as chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations next year.

Puri’s fluency in Arabic is what made the Indian establishment decide on his appointment, it is reliably learnt.

The UAE is home to around 2.6 million expatriate Indians.

Inviting the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince as chief guest for the 2017 Republic Day celebrations was a decision taken in the strategic perspective, and comes over a decade after a leader from the Gulf region was chief guest to the important national event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UAE in August last year, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to go to the country since then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the 1980s.

He also visited Saudi Arabia, where he was conferred with the Gulf kingdom’s highest civilian honour, Iran and Qatar in quick succession this year.

Then Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations in 2006.

“@narendramodi I am pleased to join in your Republic Day celebrations, wishing your friendly country more progress & prosperity,” the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince tweeted on October 2, the day that is observed as Gandhi Jayanti and the International Day of Non-violence by the UN.

Prime Minister Modi’s engagements with the Gulf states has been complemented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visits to Palestine and Bahrain, Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar’s visits to Jordan, Syria, Iraq Iran, and UAE, and his colleague V.K. Singh’s visits to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for dealing with problems faced by Indian workers.

After the ‘Act East’ Policy, wherein New Delhi engages with its Southeast Asian neighbours, ‘Link West’ with the extended neighbourhood in West Asia has now become the focus.