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India, UAE Sign Seven Agreements To Step Up Cooperation

As India eyes investment from United Arab Emirates, the Gulf nation has sought more structural reforms and an attractive climate for absorbing foreign direct investment

India and the UAE have signed seven agreements, including on cybersecurity, infrastructure investment and insurance, after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

At their restricted as well as delegation-level talks in New Delhi on Thursday, the leaders deliberated on combating threat of terrorism and explored ways to enhance bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism, maritime security and defence.

The pact on cyberspace will provide for greater synergy between security agencies of the two countries to combat efforts to radicalise youths through online platforms besides checking activities of terror groups.

Modi had visited the UAE in August last year during which it was decided to elevate the relationship to "comprehensive strategic partnership", providing for greater cooperation in strategic areas including defence and security.

Expanding economic engagement, particularly in oil and renewable energy sector and increasing UAE's investment in India, was a major focus area at the deliberations.

Oil Reserves
UAE's national oil company Adnoc has already agreed to store crude oil in India's maiden strategic storage and give two-third of the oil to it for free. India is building underground storages at Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Mangalore and Padur in Karnataka to store about 5.33 million tonnes of crude oil.

Another pact was signed for creating a framework for facilitating participation of UAE's institutional investors in India's infrastructure sector while a separate agreement provides for cooperation in the insurance sector.

A total of seven pacts were signed between the two sides out of which four were inked in presence of Modi and Al Nahyan. Another pact between Dubai Economic Council and Export Import Bank of India will be signed in Mumbai.

The UAE has a sovereign wealth fund of around $800 billion and India hopes to attract a sizable investment from it in several key sectors.

The MoUs signed will also provide for cooperation in areas of skill development, space and cultural exchanges.

Modi held talks with the Crown Prince for a restricted meeting at his residence before delegation-level talks at Hyderabad House later in the evening on Thursday. They continued their discussions over dinner as well.

Both the leaders deliberated on range of key issues including threat of ISIS, radicalism and the Mideast situation.

Productive Interaction
"Productive interaction with HH Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Avenues of India-UAE cooperation are immense," Modi tweeted.

The Crown Prince also met President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari. The President also hosted a lunch for the visiting leader.

Food security was another area which was discussed at length at the delegation level talks between Modi and Al Nahyan. The UAE is keen to increase its import of food from India.

In the talks, the UAE side also mentioned about the contribution of the 2.6 million Indian diaspora in overall development of the country.

During Modi's visit to UAE, it was decided to increase the current volume of bilateral trade by 60 per cent in the next five years and the issue figured in the talks. The annual bilateral trade currently is around $60 billion.

India is the UAE's number one trading partner while the Gulf nation is India's third largest trading partner after the US and China. The UAE is India's second largest export destination.

For India's energy security, UAE is an important country as it gets 9.38 per cent of total crude requirement from that country. The volume of supply in 2014-15 was 15.99 million tonnes.

The UAE economy, one of the leading producers of oil, has been hit hard by falling crude prices and it is expected that the Gulf nation would like to invest significantly in India's energy and infrastructure sectors.

The two countries had already agreed to make bilateral investments in the petroleum sector and also take up joint projects in third country.

The UAE has initiated a Mars mission for 2020 and India has agreed to assist that country in the project.

Earlier, Al Nahyan was accorded a guard of honour at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He also visited Rajghat and paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi.

He arrived on Wednesday evening on a three-day visit to a warm welcome as the Prime Minister, breaking from protocol, received him at the airport.

Structural Reforms
As India eyes investment from United Arab Emirates, the Gulf nation has sought more structural reforms and an attractive climate for absorbing foreign direct investment.

With the two countries targeting trade of over $100 billion by 2020, Anwar Gargash, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said it was essential to add "new revenue streams" and explore other fields to achieve that goal.

He said the 'Security Dialogue' between the two countries is "moving ahead" as both face a threat from extremism and terrorism.

"It is important to have structural reforms in India. If you look at the FDI in India, it is not very large in comparison to the size of the Indian economy and its potential," Gargash said.

"So, what we would like to see also is a more attractive climate in terms of absorbing the investment," Gargash said at an interaction with reporters along with Reem Al Hashimi, UAE's Minister of State for International Development.

Gargash said neither country was doing any "favour" to the other as India was looking for investments and the UAE for markets for its sovereign funds.

"A lot of foreign investment comes through World Bank, but we work more as sovereign funds and more on commercial basis. This is one area where we are working with the Indian government. We are also waiting for the Indian party to find the right channel for us to make that commitment. As much India is seeking our funds, we are also seeking India's market. It's a win-win situation," he said.

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