PM Narendra Modi to connect with 2.6 million Indians in UAE

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to connect with the Indian diaspora in the UAE by addressing meet of nearly 40,000 expats and woo the energy-rich country’s sovereign fund to invest in sectors like aviation, telecom, ports and road transport during his upcoming visit to the Gulf nation on Aug 16-17.

The meeting with the 2.6-million-strong Indian community in the UAE—the highest among all expat communities there—is big on Modi’s two-day trip, which begins on August 16, and in line with his pro-active diaspora outreach initiative. A public event is being planned at the Dubai Cricket Stadium on the evening of August 17, according to a prominent member of the Indian community residing in Dubai. This will be Modi’s maiden visit to the Gulf region as Prime Minister.

The Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), which is leading preparations for Modi’s visit, has set up an organising committee to oversee the arrangements. According to BR Shetty, a member of the organising committee, the reception is expected to attract at least 40,000 people of Indian origin. During his trip, Modi will visit both capital Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The ICWC said in a statement that it has set up a website to facilitate registration of community members for the meeting. Modi will also be wooing the energy-rich country’s sovereign fund and UAE-based companies to invest in infrastructure sectors like aviation, telecom, ports and road transport.

The Gulf nation is the 10th biggest foreign investor in India—an estimated $3.01 billion in FDI flowed in as of January—and its third biggest trading partner after China and the US. During his visit, Modi will be looking to further diversify bilateral trade and investments.

In 2014-15, bilateral trade between the two nations stood at close $60 billion. While India is an important export destination for UAE-manufactured goods, in 2014-15 the UAE became the second largest importer of Indian merchandise with sales topping $33 billion. The same year, the UAE was also the sixth largest import source of crude oil for India.

There is also a large Indian business community in the UAE which in 2013 made remittances of over $15 billion. Modi’s trip could revive India-Gulf Cooperation Council free trade talks, the officials said. The two sides would also like to intensify cooperation in counter-terrorism, maritime security, prisoner swap, cooperation in agriculture and food security. The UAE is expected to seek more protection for its investments in India.

Members of the Indian community in Dubai said they have been expecting a visit by an Indian prime minister for decades. Modi’s predecessor, Manmohan Singh, was expected to reciprocate the visits of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, here in 2007 and 2010. However, it was former president Pratibha Patil who paid a five-day state visit to the UAE in 2010.