Shalkh Mohammed bin Zayed to be the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day Parade
NEW DELHI. Firming up friendship with the United Arab Emirates ( UAE), India has invited the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces, Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day ceremonies on January 26, 2017.
UAE has always been a friend of India, and that has been reaffirmed again and again. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai last year, and the extremely warm welcome extended to him, has taken the bilateral relations forward by many times. Mr Modi exudes extraordinary warmth, and that is something that endeared him to the UAE leadership.
Shaikh Mohammed, a pragmatic, wise and liberal leader like his father, the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, had paid a return visit to New Delhi in February, and the welcome accorded to him was as effusive as the one he had extended to Mr Modi.
Contrary to general impression, the UAE has always regarded India with goodwill, and one thing the two countries strongly share is the disgust against the ugly head of terrorism.
I used to be stationed in Dubai as a Foreign Correspondent, and many years ago, in 1992 or 1993, Shaikh Zayed, the tall man of the Arab world, had called a conference of top Islamic scholars from around the world to say that Islam has no place either for fundamentalism or terrorism. That has been the UAE’s declared policy ever since, notwithstanding political relations with other Islamic countries.
The UAE also does not support nuclear weapons, and I have been told by the country’s top officials that nor do they support military control over them. Of course, Pakistan was not named in a conversation I once had with UAE’s then Foreign Secretary many years ago.
UAE maintains a policy of diplomatic silence but mostly does what is correct. Militarily, it is one of the strongest countries in the Arab world, and its forces have drawn first blood in operations in Yemen and Syria. As a country which believes in peace, has revulsion to terrorism, abjures nuclear weapons, and looks for its own and regional and global economic growth, it is a natural partner of India.
In May 1981, when Mrs Indira Gandhi had visited the UAE, the two countries had said in their Joint Statement that Peace and Stability in South Asia and the Gulf are a mutual requirement. That policy still holds, and has been strengthened further by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s natural warmth and goodwill, and the fact that while India has to defend itself against constant needling by Pakistan, New Delhi stands for a secure global environment.