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President hails elevation of India-UAE ties

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday expressed “great satisfaction” at the elevation of the relationship between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The president’s remarks came when Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE Armed Forces General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is on a three-day visit to India, called on him at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

“Welcoming the crown prince, the president conveyed that India shares UAE’s desire for a closer partnership between the two countries,” a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat said.

Mukherjee said India appreciated the vision of the crown prince’s father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the personal commitment of the crown prince to strengthen bilateral ties with India.

“President said it was a matter of great satisfaction that the two countries have decided to elevate their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership,” the statement said.

Mukherjee said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE in August last year, the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years, has resulted in increasing mutual understanding and bonds of friendship between the two nations.

“The joint statement issued during that visit reflects the desire to intensify cooperation between the two countries in a wide range of sectors – political, economic, security as well as on regional and multilateral issues,” he said.

Mukherjee also expressed happiness over the establishment of good institutional mechanisms including a joint commission between India and the UAE and said close collaboration through these institutional dialogues and mechanisms would address pending issues and progress cooperation to the desired levels.

Stating that India attached high priority to enhancing bilateral investment ties with the UAE, Mukherjee said that through bilateral trade ties between the two countries were growing satisfactorily, UAE investment in FDI in India – of about $3 billion – is far below the existing opportunities and potential.

“The president said during the prime minister’s visit to the UAE, the two countries had agreed that investment institutions in the UAE would be encouraged to invest in India’s infrastructure, including through the India-UAE Infrastructure Investment Fund and a target of $75 billion is set for the same. India looks forward to working together with UAE to achieve this,” the statement said.

Warmly recollecting his meeting with the crown prince in May 2008 during his visit to the UAE as the then external affairs minister, Mukherjee presented the visiting dignitary a historical photograph of him calling on Sheikh Zayed during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in 1975.

The crown prince warmly reciprocated the president’s views and expressed his desire to create a strong bridge of friendship and cooperation between India and the UAE.

“Although our relationship have crossed many milestones, that doesn’t stop us from opening new horizons for this relationship to grow and prosper,” WAM news agency quoted Sheikh Mohamed as saying.

“We expect all the mutual groups between the two countries to meet the desire of the leaderships of the two nations by working on creating new opportunities for economic, developmental and cultural partnerships,” he said.

The two sides also discussed regional and international developments and exchanged views on issues of mutual interest.

Sheikh Mohamed was accompanied in the visit by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai, Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, and Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chief of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court among others.

Mukherjee hosted a private lunch in honour of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi which was attended by Prime Minister Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, other dignitaries from India and the UAE as well as business leaders.

Earlier on Thursday, the crown prince, who arrived here on Wednesday, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

He then paid floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat and also held a restricted meeting with Modi at the latter’s residence at 7, Race Course Road.

Delegation-level talks between Modi and Sheikh Mohamed are scheduled to be held on Thursday evening following which a number of agreements are expected to be signed.