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UAE-India ties ‘even deeper’ after pandemic challenges

▶ Departing envoy thanks Emirates for support during repatriati­on efforts


Before leaving his role as India’s ambassador to the UAE, Pavan Kapoor called for testing rules to be relaxed for people travelling from his country to the Emirates.

He has sought the removal of a rapid PCR test requiremen­t at airports in India, with travellers screened within six hours of boarding their flight.

Passengers must also have a PCR test 48 hours before departure and another when they arrive in the Emirates.

“I’m hoping these regulation­s will ease up soon,” he told The National, hours before heading to his next posting as ambassador to Russia.

More than 2.9 million tourists from India arrived in the UAE in 2018.

While flight schedules have not yet been restored to pre-pandemic levels, Mr Kapoor said there was a strong interest among people in India to visit Expo 2020 Dubai.

“The enthusiasm is high and I’m hoping the numbers will go up as we come back to our regular air services,” he said.

The support the UAE has given to Indian residents during the Covid-19 pandemic has deepened ties between the countries, Mr Kapoor said.

“The pandemic, which was the bulk of my tenure here, was a big challenge to us as a community, but I think we have come out of it stronger,” he said.

“We realised how supportive the UAE leadership is and we have been able to keep the relationsh­ip going even deeper.”

Mr Kapoor assumed his post in the UAE in late 2019, a few months before offices, schools and businesses were closed.

He oversaw efforts to help Indians return home owing to the effects of the pandemic.

He regards the repatriati­on drive as an important part of his two-year stint in the UAE.

“The massive repatriati­on exercise was certainly a big challenge, but again with the support of the government of India, our community here and the UAE government in a big way, we managed to move out a fairly large number of people,” he said.

“It was more than 600,000 people in the first four months and that was certainly a challengin­g time, to make sure that people who were the most deserving got to go back to India.”

When repatriati­on flights began in May last year, the elderly, pregnant women and people who had their lost jobs were given priority.

“We had to ensure the most vulnerable and needy were sent back and these were in large numbers,” he said.

“There were also large groups of workers in labour camps where companies wanted to send them home, so we initiated charter flights.

“That was certainly a very trying time, but with the support of the community, the UAE ministries of foreign affairs and health, we were successful.”

About 1.3 million Indians left the Emirates last year, but more than 1.1 million have since arrived, Indian government officials have said.

Another challenge posed by the pandemic was providing daily meals to people who lost their jobs.

Indian community groups and the UAE authoritie­s worked together to help tackle the problem.

Health authoritie­s in the Emirates also provided medical care free of charge for people who contracted Covid-19.

“There was the urgent need to care for our people here because we [India] had shut down our own air space,” he said.

“There was a large vulnerable set of our people, the bluecollar workers, who needed all sorts of help and provision of basic food items had to be organised.”

The UAE government’s successful response to the pandemic, including carrying out a mass vaccinatio­n programme, has left a strong impression on the departing diplomat.

“One memory that I certainly take back is the fact it’s been amazing to see how the UAE has coped with the pandemic, how they have been far-sighted and supportive of all residents and not just nationals in treatment and vaccinatio­n access for everyone,” he said.

“And also the ability of a small country to think far ahead in different fields, whether it is in the field of renewable energy while being a member of Opec or how to retain and even attract expats.”

India is the UAE’s second-largest trading partner, accounting for 9 per cent of the Emirates’ total foreign trade and 13 per cent of non-oil exports.

The countries have strengthen­ing economic ties through the Comprehens­ive Economic Partnershi­p Agreement, which aims to boost the value of nonoil trade to $100 billion in the next five years.

“We have extended ties in areas of health care and food security, but more recently with our negotiatio­n for Cepa, this is something that will contribute to trade in a big way and help in the recovery for both countries as they emerge out of Covid,” he said.

It’s been amazing to see how the UAE has coped with the pandemic ... how they have been supportive of all residents PAVAN KAPOOR

Departing Indian envoy to the UAE

 ?? Chris Whiteoak / The National ?? Pavan Kapoor has left the UAE after serving for two years as India’s envoy
Chris Whiteoak / The National Pavan Kapoor has left the UAE after serving for two years as India’s envoy

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