INDIA@76 MARCHING AHEAD

India has come a long way since 1947. Today, it is the fastest growing major economy and the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. However, the journey was full of challenges, and perhaps none more painful than the last few years of the pandemic … writes Sunjay Sudhir, Indian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates to celebrate 76th Independence Day of India

India has come a long way since 1947. Today,  it is the fastest growing major economy and the third largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. However, the journey was full of challenges, and perhaps none more painful than the last few years of the pandemic.

India, along with the entire world was also impacted by the unprecedented COVID 19 pandemic. However, with the world’s largest vaccination program aided by the efforts of our frontline workers, India is well on its road towards building back better. Also, India took great strides in vaccine research and development with the indigenously developed Covaxin and the needle-less ZyCov-D vaccines. With the world’s largest vaccine production capacity, India not only provided vaccines to the world but also supported developing countries in their fight against the pandemic through humanitarian assistance.

While India engaged with all its partners around the globe, the India-UAE relationship has emerged stronger than ever. As if ordained by destiny, while India celebrated the 75th year of independence, the UAE also celebrated the Year of the 50th,  to mark the Golden Jubilee of the formation of the UAE. Furthermore, this is also the year when our two countries complete 50 years of diplomatic relations.

A testimony to this close bond is the most recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Abu Dhabi to personally convey his condolences on the demise of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and good wishes on the election of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as the third President of the UAE.  President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in a touching gesture, personally received Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival, along with members of the Royal family. This was the second interaction between the two leaders since the India-UAE Virtual Summit in February 2022 which marked a quantum leap in the India-UAE partnership with signing of the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). CEPA was the first of its kind signed by India in the Middle East North Africa region and first by the UAE with any country of the world. Even more staggering is the fact that the negotiations for this historic agreement took a mere 88 days, made possible only through mutual trust and commitment to take our bilateral relations to the next level.

This year also witnessed groundbreaking interactions at the level of key institutions of both countries. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu was the one of the first world leaders to call on President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to pay respects to late Sheikh Khalifa. In a historic first in March 2022, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Om Birla visited the UAE, along with six MPs, and became the first ever sitting Speaker, to address a session of the UAE Federal National Council. In another first, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana visited the UAE and met the President of the UAE Federal Supreme Court, an interaction of much significance, given the huge Indian diaspora in the country.

India and UAE took another significant step in strengthening our comprehensive strategic partnership with the Joint Vision Document, unveiled during the leaders’ virtual summit. Aptly titled “New Frontiers, New Milestones”, it charts the pathway towards a shared future. While it seeks to build on past achievements, it lays down new avenues of cooperation such as fintech, clean energy and climate action, food security and sustainability, digital payments, cyber security, cryptocurrencies among others. Another historic announcement marked what might become the beginning of a new epoch in the India-UAE higher education cooperation, that of establishment of and Indian Institute of Technology in Abu Dhabi.

India and UAE jointly broke new ground with announcement of the I2U2 Group along with Israel and the United States in October 2021. In a matter of months, the I2U2 summit was convened between Prime Minister Modi, President Sheikh Mohamed, President Biden and Israeli PM Yair Lapid. With an outcome oriented approach, the I2U2 Joint statement was full of intent, content and key announcements, including an investment of $ 2 billion by the UAE to develop food parks in India and a USD 330 million joint project to develop renewable energy capacity of upto 300 MW in India. The goal of I2U2 transcends national boundaries and is aimed at harnessing the vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of the four societies to tackle some of the greatest challenges confronting the world today.

The year was full of firsts. We laud the UAE Government for the unprecedented success of Expo 2020 Dubai, at a time when the world was in the grips of despair and fear. A footfall of more than 24 million in 6 months was no mean achievement. In yet another milestone, the Expo 2020 Dubai was home to the dazzling India Pavilion. During the 6 months of Expo, it was the one of most visited Pavilions and also became a platform for forging meaningful partnerships in all fields, ranging from investment cooperation, tourism, media , films, education, youth outreach to close interactions between policy makers from both countries. It showcased India’s rich history, the story of its rise as a major economy, achievements in human development, science and technology, infrastructure and the country’s unity in diversity. The India Pavilion also became a launchpad for startups, small enterprises and budding entrepreneurs with its “Elevate” series of pitching sessions which attracted huge number of angel investors, venture capitalists and incubators.

Not only is the UAE home to more than 3.5 million Indians,  our countries share a historical and cultural affinity that dates back centuries, if not millennia. I thank the UAE Government and the rulers for their graciousness and generosity towards the Indian community in the UAE. The UAE is a manifestation of their vision towards building a country and society premised on peace, harmony, tolerance and brotherhood. 

In yet another first, more than 5500 people, Indian nationals, Emirati brothers and sisters and even expatriates celebrated the International Day of Yoga 2022 at the iconic Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The celebrations in Dubai also a huge success. With the UAE government as a key stakeholder, IDY 2022 was a first of is kind in terms of participation and scale. The message of peace, harmony and tolerance was heard loud and clear.

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