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Indian signs are looking good

Posted 19 September 2017 · Add Comment

The UAE is developing closer defence ties with India, as Jon Lake discovers.

Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, was the chief guest for India’s annual Republic Day celebrations in January.
He was joined by a contingent from the UAE armed forces, who participated in the Republic Day parade, the event that showcases India’s military power, as well as its cultural diversity.
The crown prince was the first chief guest in more than 50 years who was not a head of state or government (though he is the UAE’s president-in-waiting).
The status of chief guest is an honour that India has traditionally given to countries that are pivotal to its diplomacy and security. Last year’s chief guest was French President Francois Hollande, while the previous one was then US President Barack Obama.
The crown prince’s visit to India followed Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s, state visit to the UAE in August 2015 – his first to a GCC country and the first by an Indian prime minister for 34 years.
Ties between India and the UAE have been growing stronger on the back of ever-closer economic cooperation.
As Asia’s fastest-growing economy, India has a huge and growing appetite for energy, and is a major importer of oil. Consequently, it is the UAE’s largest trading partner (with bilateral trade totalling $58 billion in 2016), and is the second-largest destination for the UAE’s oil exports.
The UAE is India’s third-largest trading partner after China and the United States, and its fifth-largest supplier of crude oil. It hosts India’s second largest expatriate population (after Saudi Arabia), consisting of 2.6 million people, who work and send money back to their families. They form the UAE’s largest expatriate group.
The two nations aim to increase bilateral trade by 60% over the next five years, with India hoping that the UAE will act as a gateway for exports to the wider MENA region, while the UAE has launched a $75 billion investment programme into India’s infrastructure, including airports, ports, and highways, as well as construction and petrochemical projects.
India and the UAE are particularly keen to expand cooperation in the energy sector, and the two heads of state signed an agreement to allow for the storage of crude oil by Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in Mangalore and to further strengthen the strategic relationship between the countries in the field of energy.
The two state visits mark a new stage in a strengthening relationship between the two nations, which is increasingly underpinned by an emphasis on investment, security and defence.
Zikrur Rahman, a former Indian ambassador to Palestine, explained the attraction of closer links between India and the UAE: “Gulf countries like the UAE feel threatened by the changing scenario in the west with the rise of right-wing parties. They feel it is time to look east, where they know India is a dominant economy with indigenous defence capabilities.”
The increasingly close relationship between India and the UAE may come at Pakistan’s expense. Muslim Pakistan has long enjoyed a privileged position with the Arab world and the Gulf States, and especially with Saudi Arabia, providing military assistance and manpower as well as diplomatic support.
But the UAE and its neighbours have concerns about growing extremism and political Islamism, and relations with Pakistan have been cooling since the inauguration of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in June 2013.
Sharif is seen in some circles as having been too accommodating to Islamist movements, and relations were further soured by Pakistan’s refusal to deploy troops for service in the Yemen conflict, and by the killing of five UAE diplomats in a bomb attack in Afghanistan in January 2017 – an attack attributed by some (including Abdul Raziq, Kandahar’s police chief) to Pakistan’s inter-services intelligence organisation.
The UAE has found its disquiet about Pakistan and political Islamism increasingly converging with India’s own security concerns.
Certainly, expanded cooperation on counter-terrorism and counter-extremism lies at the heart of the new UAE-Indian strategic agenda, and the two nations have set in place agreements to share intelligence and ensure greater cooperation between their security and intelligence agencies. They are already working to combat radicalisation and to thwart the financing of extremist groups.
India and the UAE are also to enhance defence and maritime security cooperation, and will work together to produce a range of military weapons.
Following talks between the crown prince and the Indian prime minister, supported by Indian defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, and UAE armed forces deputy supreme commander, General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a comprehensive strategic partnership that included wide-ranging defence and energy provisions was signed.
Under the agreement, public and private sector institutions in India and the UAE will cooperatively undertake studies, research, development, manufacturing and technology transfer, with the aim of jointly producing and selling defence equipment.
Such cooperation has, in fact, already started. On September 28 2015, Emirates Defence Industries Co (EDIC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with India’s Reliance Defence Limited. The two companies will jointly explore opportunities for building capabilities in the areas of aviation, defence equipment and vehicles, armament manufacturing, defence electronics, commercial and naval ships, and especially in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) of military equipment and platforms. The partners hope to find synergies that will allow them to leverage one-another’s capabilities, while also reducing costs.
One of EDIC’s subsidiaries is the Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Centre (AMMROC). A joint venture between Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky and Mubadala (now EDIC), AMMROC provides MRO services for a wide range of fixed and rotary wing aircraft – including many types that are in service in India, whose annual military aircraft maintenance bill is currently estimated at a hefty $12.23 billion.
With the Boeing C-17, BAE Hawk, Dassault Mirage 2000, Pilatus PC-7, and Lockheed Martin C-130J in service in both countries, there is certainly scope for cooperation and rationalisation.
 

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