India-UAE likely to ink 16 pacts; Investment, counter-terror top agenda

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at a meeting in Abu Dhabi on August 17, 2015. Photo: PTI
At least 16 pacts in a wide range of sectors like nuclear energy, oil, information technology (IT), aerospace and railways, facilitating billions of dollars of investment by UAE in India, are likely to be inked during Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayad Al Nahayan's visit here beginning Wednesday.

Ways to contain radicalism, stepping up counter-terrorism cooperation and dealing with the ISIS will figure prominently in talks Al Nahayan will have with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, UAE Ambassador Ahmed Al Banna said.

A major focus of the three-day visit by the influential UAE leader, which comes nearly six months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to UAE, will be on stepping up economic ties.

Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, has a sovereign wealth fund of $800 billion. India has been eying the fund, parked with the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, for its infrastructure sector and the envoy said there may be some announcements to this effect during Al Nahayan's visit.

"We have on hand nearly 16 agreements for cooperation between different ministries and authorities. Out of 16, almost 12 have been finalised and ready for signature. Hopefully all the 16 will be signed," said Al Banna.

The envoy said the agreements will lead to "huge investment portfolio" in diverse areas including renewable energy, oil and gas and some other major sectors.

The pact on nuclear cooperation will provide for peaceful use of atomic energy in reaserach and development. UAE has similar pacts with France and some other countries.

India is UAE's number one trading partner and the annual trade currently stands at nearly $60 billion. UAE, a major player in the Gulf region, is a strategically important country for India.

The country is home to around 2.6 million Indians who constitute nearly 30 per cent of its population. It was the sixth largest supplier of crude oil to India in 2014-15.

Al Banna said Modi's visit to his country, after a gap of 34 years by an Indian Prime Minister, has opened a new path in strengthening ties and Al Nahayan's trip will further strengthen it.

"It (the visit) will reinforce the ongoing relationship and will take us to the next (level) that both sides are looking at, which is strategic cooperation, strategic coordination and strategic relationship," the envoy said.

Identifying terrorism as a major threat facing the world, the envoy said both India and UAE are increasing security and counter-terrorism cooperation to deal with the menace.

On the issue of checking radicalism, he said India and UAE will work "hand in hand to fight them. Yes there will be some cooperation on this".

The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi will also call on President Pranab Mukherjee.

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