India, UAE unveil roadmap to deepen ties, ink FTA during virtual summit

New Delhi: ndia and the UAE on Friday unveiled a roadmap for enhancing their close relations across several areas, including defence, food security and health, even as both sides inked an ambitious Free Trade Agreement to take bilateral trade to US$100 billion, during the virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Both leaders expressed deep satisfaction at the continuous growth in bilateral relations in all sectors. A major highlight of the Virtual Summit was the signing and exchange of the India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) by Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of Economy of UAE, Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri in the virtual presence of the two Leaders. Expressing happiness at the inking of the CEPA, Prime Minister Modi said that the two sides were able to conclude negotiations in less than three months, when generally such negotiations drag on for years. “The agreement highlights the deep friendship, shared vision and mutual trust between us. I am confident that with the signing of the CEPA, it will bring a new era in our economic relations, and take our trade from US$60 billion to US$100 billion in the next five years,” he said.

The PM said that trade, investment, energy and people to people ties have been the foundation of the bilateral relations, and added that both sides are poised to increase cooperation in many new areas as well. He said a new MoU in the area of food corridors was a very good step, and welcomed UAE investment in the area of food processing and the logistics sector. He said with this, India will be a trusted partner for the UAE in the sector of food security. He said that last month, the Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha had visited the UAE, following which quite a few Emirate businesspersons have evinced interest in investing in J&K. “We welcome investment in the fields of logistics, hospitality, healthcare, and other sectors in J&K, and will provide all assistance to UAE companies,” the PM said. He said that next year India will organize the G20 summit and UAE will hold the COP28.

“The issue of climate is becoming more and more relevant globally. Both sides can cooperate in shaping the agenda for this.” Earlier in his speech, he praised the Crown Prince for holding an excellent Expo 2020 despite the challenges of Covid. “Sadly, I could not go to the UAE to attend the Expo, and our face-to-face meeting too has not taken place for some time. But today’s virtual summit shows that despite all the challenges our friendly relations are consistently climbing new heights,” he added. He praised the significant role played by the Crown Prince in strengthening the bilateral ties and also thanked him for looking after the Indian diaspora during the Covid times. “I will forever be grateful to you for the manner in which you took care of the Indian diaspora in the UAE in the midst of the Covid pandemic.” The PM reiterated India’s strong condemnation of the January 17 Houthi terror attack in Abu Dhabi. “We strongly condemn the recent terror attacks in the UAE. India and the UAE will stand shoulder to shoulder in fighting terrorism.” The PM said that the year is very significant for both countries, as the UAE is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding and the Crown Prince has also laid down the vision for his country for the next 50 years. “We are celebrating the 75th anniversary of our independence and we have laid down an ambitious target for the next 25 years. There is a lot of similarity in the future vision of both countries,” the PM added. The Joint Vision Statement is titled ‘Advancing the India and UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestone’. As part of it, in the field of Defence and Security, the two sides agreed to enhance maritime cooperation contributing to maintenance of peace and security in the region. Both sides also reaffirmed their joint commitment to fight against extremism and terrorism, including cross-border terrorism, in all forms, at both regional and international levels.

The CEPA Agreement will provide significant benefits to Indian and UAE businesses, including enhanced market access and reduced tariffs. It will also expedite work on a dedicated investment zone for UAE companies and joint ventures with a focus on setting up a food corridor and establishment of a dedicated India Mart in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. It will also create investment opportunities for Indian investors in establishing specialised industrial advanced technology zones in Abu Dhabi, with specific focus in areas of logistics and services, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, agriculture, agri-tech, steel and aluminium. As part of the Energy partnership, the vision document seeks to promote collaboration opportunities to support India’s energy requirements, including new energies, and ensure the provision of affordable and secure energy supplies to India’s growing economy. It seeks to provide mutual support in energy transition and focused work on low-carbon future. In the area of Climate action and renewables, both sides agreed to support each other’s clean energy missions and establish a joint Hydrogen Task Force to help scale up technologies, with a special focus on the production of Green Hydrogen. In the field of Emerging technologies, the two sides agreed to expand cooperation and collaborate on critical technologies and mutually promote e-businesses and e-payment solutions and promote start-ups from both countries. In the field of Cultural cooperation, the two sides agreed to set up an India–UAE Cultural Council to facilitate and promote cross-cultural exchanges, cultural projects, exhibitions and dialogue between thought leaders of the two countries. As part of Skills cooperation, they agreed to enhance cooperation in skill development so as to align with the market needs and address the changing needs for the future of work. In Food security, they acknowledged the need to enhance the resilience and reliability of food supply chains.

They agreed to expand cooperation through enhanced bilateral food and agriculture trade and, promote and strengthen the infrastructure and dedicated logistic services connecting farms to ports to final destinations in the UAE. In Health cooperation, they agreed to collaborate in research, production and development of reliable supply chains for vaccines and enhance investments by UAE entities in the rapidly growing health infrastructure in India as well as collaborate in providing health care in underprivileged countries. As part of cooperation in the education sector, they agreed to establish an Indian Institute of Technology in the UAE. The two Leaders also released a Joint Commemorative Stamp on the occasion of 75th anniversary of India’s independence and 50th year of UAE’s foundation. Two MOUs signed during the Summit are, an MOU between APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) and DP World & Al Dahra, on a Food Security Corridor Initiative; and a MOU between India’s Gift City and Abu Dhabi Global Market on cooperation in financial projects and services. Two other MOUs — one on cooperation in Climate Action and the other on Education – were also agreed between the two sides. Prime Minister Modi invited the Crown Prince to pay an early visit to India. UNI

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