In what may be seen as a big boost for India’s policy towards West Asia, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan has confirmed his participation in the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi as a chief guest on January 26, 2017.
In August 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UAE and that was the first bilateral visit to Abu Dhabi by an Indian PM in 34 years. Since then, India has tried hard to strengthen ties with the West Asian nation. In the last one year, the UAE has emerged as the most vocal partner in the region to share India’s concern on terrorism. Now, the Modi government announces that the crown prince of Abu Dhabi will visit India in January 2017.
The development shows New Delhi’s special focus on the emirates and West Asia, as the selection of the chief guest for Republic Day carries a strong political message. In 2006, king of Saudi Arabia became the first leader from the Gulf to attend India’s Republic Day events as chief guest. In 2013, India invited the sultan of Oman, but he failed to attend the event because of health problems.
In the changing global geopolitical landscape, India and the UAE have come close to each other and Abu Dhabi has expressed its willingness to partner New Delhi in its counter-terrorism efforts. Although the UAE is yet to address India’s concerns on issues related to terror-financing, it has agreed to invest around USD 75 billion (in long term) in the South Asian country and to modernise its infrastructure sector. New Delhi has welcomed Abu Dhabi’s gesture, with Prime Minister Modi and his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh breaking away from the protocol to receive visitors from West Asia at the airport in the past. The US president was the only other leader who was received by these two Indian PMs in similar fashion.
India also plans to bolster ties with Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, as West Asia is home to more than seven million Indians. In its latest report, leading provider of credit ratings, research, and risk analysis Moody’s has mentioned that India receives 52.1% of its remittances from the Gulf nations and the region is also a key source for its steady oil imports.
Shaikh Mohammad visited India in February 2016 for the first time on the invitation of PM Modi. His visit transformed the friendly bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. New Delhi believes that the crown prince’s visit on the Republic Day will help further strengthen the multifaceted partnership between the two countries.
India marks the Republic Day on January 26 every year, as the Indian Constitution came into force on this day in 1950.