By Vipul Gupta
Prime Minister Modi with his glamour and energy addressed the Indian diaspora in UAE’s architectural marvel- the Dubai Opera, during his three-nation visit. In a bid to assure the Indian population living in UAE that India is changing, he highlighted several of his government’s achievements. While lauding his efforts in improving India’s global position in the Ease of Doing Business Rankings, he said, “The leap from 142 to 100 is unprecedented, but we are not satisfied at this, we want to do better, and we will do whatever it takes to make it possible”. To further make his case he said, “The situation has changed from ‘What will happen’ to ‘When will it happen’”– hinting at the strong support base he still enjoys in India.
Beyond the rhetoric of ‘Changing India’
Unlike Modi’s previous speeches on foreign lands, this one was less about the past deeds of Indian National Congress and more about the religious symbolism India is associated with. This time the highlight of the show was a live feed of the temple that will be built in the desert nation. The intention behind building this temple in UAE, according to Modi, is to spread the message of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The World is one family) across the world and to uphold the ‘Indian’ principles of peace and harmony.
This temple, which will be built on 55,000 square meters of land will be the very first temple of UAE. While thanking UAE for their support for the temple, he made the political message loud and clear- “Between all the trade deals that his government makes, spreading India’s culture around the world will remain his topmost priority.“ The implications of this move by the Prime Minister would be visible much more in India rather than in UAE- which hosts mostly Muslims from the southern state of Kerala.
The diplomatic agenda
On the agenda this time were five major deals for energy, railways, labour and finance sectors. In the energy sector, India strengthened the buyer-seller relationship with UAE by making a long-term investment in UAE’s Oil Companies. India also took a significant step towards eliminating Indian labour exploitation in the Gulf nations by proposing an integrated e-platform which will become a one-stop solution to every migrant’s problems. Amidst all this, the visit had a little something for Jammu as well: A multi-modal logistics park, making Jammu a storage and warehouse hub of North India.
Second visit to UAE in four years
Since long, both India and UAE have reaped the benefits of the ever-increasing trade between the two nations. With India being a major trading partner of UAE and the largest receiver of remittances from UAE, the significance of this bilateral relationship came into the limelight for the first time in 2015. With Modi’s 2015 UAE visit, both the nations pushed for better cooperation in trade and technology transfer. And now, this second visit from India’s Prime Minister happened at a time when Saudi Arabia has tightened its labour regulations, which is destined to hurt Indian migrants in Saudi Arabia. So, it is imperative for India to keep UAE- which contributes 20% of the total remittances to India (pegged at around 16 billion dollars), in its kitty to ensure a clean capital account balance sheet.
The emerging pattern in foreign policy
Many experts have criticized India’s current foreign policy which has failed to reduce the tensions between the South Asian giant and its immediate neighbours. To counter the ever-rising tensions in the subcontinent, the government is attempting to explore other opportunities across the globe, be it by hosting ASEAN or showing the ‘India First’ ideology in dealing with Israel and its arch-rivals- the Arab nations, India is exploring the potential by engaging these nations with the seriousness that hasn’t been seen in the recent past. Will this lead to a new chapter in India’s international diplomacy is a question that needs to be answered.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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