India-UAE Fortify Multi-Faceted Bilateral Ties

Close on heels after announcement of conclusion of interim trade deal between India and Australia by mid-March, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with UAE will be a huge boost for Indian economy.  In a virtual summit meet commemorating 75 years of India’s independence and 50 years of UAE’s foundation, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan witnessed the signing of CEPA.

The FTA with UAE is New Delhi’s second major deal after the India-Mauritius Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA) in February 2021.

Breaching the traditional timelines, expediting the talks, both countries finalised this early harvest deal in a record 88 days. Both the countries commenced the talks in September 2021. Three visits by the External Affairs Minister and a visit by Commerce Minister to UAE for negotiations laid the ground for CEPA. To increase the existing bilateral trade worth $60 billion to $100 billion merchandise trade, and services trade to $15 billion in five years, the CEPA envisioned to reduce tariffs initially of 80% goods and will extend to 98% of goods over time.

Besides enabling the two-way investment in trade and services, start-ups and fintechs, the FTA is expected to create 5 lakh jobs in gems, textiles, engineering, agriculture and auto sectors in India and 1 lakh jobs in UAE.

Introducing new structural changes and launching “Vocal for Local: Manufacture in India for the World”, a cumulative turn around in manufacturing sector Indian Government set the merchandise export target of $400 billion1 for the 2022. India is almost on reaching this milestone this year. Enthused by fledging manufacturing potential, India is aiming at $2 trillion exports by 2030- comprising of $1 trillion merchandise exports and $1 trillion service exports. The FTA with UAE will not only help in sustaining the growth but would facilitate access to attractive export markets for Indian goods.

In line with its ambitious targets, New Delhi has junked the strategy of signing trade agreements to join trade groups and shifted its focus on sealing bilateral FTAs with countries to facilitate market access and better integration of Indian markets to global supply chains. This FTA with UAE will eventually actuate India to conclude similar trade agreements with GCC countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain), the UK, the EU, Australia, Israel and Canada on anvil.

UAE is part of the Greater-Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and has free trade access to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Sudan and Tunisia2. With CEPA on roll, India can enter markets of West Asia and Africa.

Giving major push to its FTA strategy, the UAE is also planning to seal FTAs with eight countries including India, the UK, Indonesia, Turkey, South Korea, Ethiopia, Israel and Kenya this year. Needless to say, enhanced economic cooperation is bound to foster a robust and resilient relationship.

India and UAE established diplomatic ties in 1972. But Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the country in 2015, a first in 34 years, resurrected the ties hinged on the pillars of energy cooperation, remittances and employment destination. In line with UAE’s “Vision 2021” which sought to diversify its economy, India and UAE harnessed a vision to expand the cooperation to different sectors. Subsequently, countries unveiled UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. UAE pledged $75 billion to support India’s plans for building next generation infrastructure over a period of time.

The bilateral trade which mainly comprised of oil valued at $180 million per annum in 1970s steadily grew to $59 billion. Currently UAE is the third largest trading and export destination of Indian goods after US and China. UAE is 9th biggest investor in India in terms of FDI.

Since 2015, state visits by Prime Minister Modi in 2018, 2019 and reciprocal visits by Crown Prince in 2016 and 2017 reinvigorated the ties. In 2017, on the eve of Crown Prince’s visit to India as guest of honour for Republic Day celebrations countries elevated the ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Signalling trust and deepening friendship, UAE armed forces joined the parade becoming the first Arab nation to participate in the Republic Day march and second foreign military contingent. The first being the French contingent.

Aside the synergistic economic cooperation, the significant hallmark of India-UAE relationship is developmental partnership in J&K. Riled by abrogation of article 370, Pakistan has attempted to garner the support of OIC countries against India. Unequivocally stating that it is an internal matter of India, UAE cold shouldered Pakistan.

In response to Pakistan’s nefarious agenda to destabilise J&K, India roped in the UAE as a developmental partner. In October 2021, India hosted a high-level delegation from Dubai for signing a MoU with J&K administration for real estate development, industrial parks, IT towers, logistics, medical colleges among others at Srinagar3. Giving a huge boost to trade, tourism and international connectivity, direct flight between Srinagar and Sharjah was flagged off.

As a follow up, commemorating J&K week at Indian pavilion of Dubai Expo 2020, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha travelled to UAE to meet business leaders to attract investments for economic development. He finalised investment commitments from Emaar, DP World and the Lulu world towards building of Mall of Srinagar, establishment of multi-modal inland container terminal and cold storage facilities and setting up of network of hypermarkets for handicrafts, horticulture products, fresh produce from J&K respectively. Clearly this mutually beneficial development partnership besides bolstering ties is a message to the World that India is keen of putting J&K on a growth trajectory.

Heralding 50 years of strong bilateral ties, leaders released a road map, “Joint India-UAE Vision Statement: Advancing the India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: New Frontiers, New Milestones” for a future looking partnership. Multi-faceted partnership now revitalised by economic cooperation is leaping forward to consolidate such cooperation in arenas of culture, health, skills, education, global issues, defence and security, energy partnership, climate action, renewables, emerging technologies and food security.

Countries have also signed MoUs in areas like- economy, climate change and Houbara Conservation, Industries and Advanced Technologies, Low Carbon Hydrogen Developments and Investments, food security, financial services and Issuance of India-UAE joint stamps5.

Energy partnership has been key pillar of Indo-UAE bilateral ties. Additionally, UAE is also India’s first international partner by way of investing crude in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves Program, has committed to collaborate with India towards an equitable transition to low-carbon future. With UAE selected to host COP28 in 2023, countries have agreed to work closely in context of COPs, International Renewable Energy Agency (IREA) and International Solar Alliance (ISA). With UAE joining the UNSC as non-permanent member for 2022-23, both countries resolved to “reinforce mutual support in multilateral areas to promote collaboration in economic and infrastructure spheres”4.

Modi condemned the recent attacks by the Houthi rebels against UAE. Reaffirming their joint commitment to fight terrorism and extremism, both the leaders emphasised the “importance of promoting the values of peace, moderation, coexistence and tolerance”. Thanks to UAE’s commitment towards moderation and tolerance, the West Asia fraught with turbulence and friction is witnessing a new churn. While Abraham Accords played a pivotal role in reshaping and integration of the region, the UAE’s role in bringing the countries has raised the hopes of new dawn of co-existence and peace.

India-UAE comprehensive strategic partnership and strong ties have paved way for a new multilateral touted as the “new Quad” comprising India, UAE, Israel and the US. Led by UAE, foreign Ministers of the countries held the first virtual summit in October to explore risk free economic opportunities in the post Abraham Accords era. As of now there is little to suggest that the new Quad envisages a strategic or security role. But India’s strong ties with UAE has helped it to overcome the traditional inhibitions to enter a regional cooperation arrangement in the West Asia.

UAE is home to 3.5 million Indian community with Indians being “largest minority ethnic group” making up for 38% of UAE residents. The intangible force of people to people connect and strong business to business relations have brought the countries much closer.

Indian diplomacy is certainly coming of the age by breaking the self-imposed barriers of staying away from West Asia. Maintaining strong friendly ties with rivals- Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India is slowly expanding its reach in the Arab region.

Breaking new ground through FTA, both countries have signalled their intent to consolidate the partnership with new optimism. Together with close collaboration and sense of purpose, countries have set a stage to usher into a new era of prosperity contributing to global recovery and creating immense opportunities for both economies.

Through an unprecedented outreach, both the countries have transformed a transactional energy cooperation into a comprehensive strategic cooperation. Now UAE is a vital strategic partner of India for the regional cooperation in West Asia.

UN Urges World Leaders to Declare ‘Climate Emergency’ at Virtual Climate Summit

Global climate leaders took a major stride towards a resilient, net zero emissions future today, presenting ambitious new commitments, urgent actions and concrete plans to confront the climate crisis.

World leaders should declare a “climate emergency” in their countries to spur action to avoid catastrophic global warming, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in opening remarks at a climate summit on Saturday.

On the fifth anniversary of the 2015 Paris Agreement, more than 70 world leaders are due to address the one-day virtual meeting in the hope of galvanizing countries into stricter actions on global warming emissions.

Guterres said that current commitments across the globe did not go “far from enough” to limit temperature rises. “Can anybody still deny that we are facing a dramatic emergency?” Guterres said. “That is why today, I call on all leaders worldwide to declare a State of Climate Emergency in their countries until carbon neutrality is reached.”

The summit showed clearly that climate change is at the top of the global agenda despite our shared challenges of Covid-19, and that there is mutual understanding that the science is clear.

Climate destruction is accelerating, and there remains much more to do as a global community to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, the summit showed beyond doubt that climate action and ambition are on the rise. The announcements at or just before the summit, together with those expected early next year, mean that countries representing around 65 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and around 70 per cent of the world’s economy, will have committed to reaching net zero emissions or carbon neutrality by early next year.

These commitments must now be backed up with concrete plans and actions, starting now, to achieve these goals, and the summit delivered a surge in progress on this front.

The number of countries coming forward with strengthened national climate plans (NDCs) grew significantly today, with commitments covering 71 countries (all EU member states are included in the new EU NDC) on display. As well as the EU NDC, a further 27 of these new and enhanced NDCs were announced at or shortly before the summit.

A growing number of countries (15) shifted gears from incremental to major increases. Countries committing to much stronger NDCs at the Summit, included Argentina, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Iceland, and Peru.

The leadership and strengthened NDCs delivered at the summit mean “we are now on track” to have more than 50 NDCs officially submitted by the end of 2020, boosting momentum and forging a pathway forward for others to follow in the months ahead.

Saturday’s announcements, together with recent commitments, send the world into 2021 and the road to the Glasgow COP26 with much greater momentum. The summit showcased leading examples of enhanced NDCs that can help encourage other countries to follow suit – particularly G20 countries.

Following this Summit, 24 countries have now announced new commitments, strategies or plans to reach net zero or carbon neutrality. Recent commitments from China, Japan, South Korea, the EU and niw Argentina have established a clear benchmark for other G20 countries.

Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today we have seen what can be achieved if nations pull together and demonstrate real leadership and ambition in the fight to save our planet.

“The UK has led the way with a commitment to cut emissions by at least 68 per cent by 2030 and to end support for the fossil fuel sector overseas as soon as possible, and it’s fantastic to see new pledges from around the world that put us on the path to success ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

“There is no doubt that we are coming to the end of a dark and difficult year, but scientific innovation has proved to be our salvation as the vaccine is rolled out. We must use that same ingenuity and spirit of collective endeavour to tackle the climate crisis, create the jobs of the future and build back better.”

China and India vowed to advance their commitment to lower carbon pollution at the summit. President Xi Jinping was one of the first leaders to address the virtual conference and he said China will boost its installed capacity of wind and solar power to more than 1,200 gigawatts over the next decade. Xi also said China will increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 25% during the same period. And “China always honors its commitments,” Xi promised.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India was ramping up its use of clean energy sources and was on target to achieve the emissions norms set under the 2015 Paris agreement. India, the second-most populous nation on Earth and the world’s fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, is eyeing 450 gigawatt of renewable energy capacity by 2030, Modi said.

 

Pakistan Markets Hindu, Christian Women as ‘Concubines’: U.S. Official Says

US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D. Brownback claimed that Pakistan is marketing Hindu and Christian women as “concubines” and “forced brides” to China.

Talking to reports last week, the top US diplomat for religious freedom said that one of the sources of “forced brides” for the Chinese men is “religious minorities, Christian and Hindu women, being marketed as concubines and as forced as brides into China”.

That was happening “because there’s not effective support and there’s discrimination against religious minorities that make them more vulnerable,” he said.

He mentioned this as one of the reasons for designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Because of the one-child policy imposed by China for decades, there is an acute shortage of women given the cultural preference for boys leading to Chinese men importing women from other countries as brides, mistresses and laborers.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom had recommended placing India also on the CPC list, citing among other issues the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rejected the suggestion when he announced the designations Dec. 7.

Brownback, however, said that Washington was watching the Indian situation closely and “these issues have been raised in private discussions at the government, high government level, and they will continue to get raised.”

The CAA expedites citizenship for Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs fleeing religious persecution in neighboring Islamic or Muslim majority countries but does not prevent Muslims from getting citizenship after following the usual procedures.

The U.S. has a legal provision similar to the CAA which is known as the Specter Amendment that is tucked into the budget bill giving asylum to some non-Muslim minorities from Iran, while pointedly excluding Muslim.

Asked by a Pakistani reporter if there was a double standard in Pompeo giving Pakistan the CPC designation and not India, Brownback said that while in Pakistan, a lot of the actions against minorities are taken by the government, that was not the case in India.

“Pakistan has half of the world’s people that are locked up for apostasy or blasphemy,” he said.

He said that in India, some of the actions like the CAA are taken by the government but there are others like “much of its communal violence” and then when they take place, “we try to determine whether or not there has been an effective police enforcement, judicial action after communal violence takes place.”

“That doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems with the statute (CAA),” he said. “The violence is a problem. We will continue to raise those issues. Those are some of the basis as to why Pakistan continues to be on the CPC list and India is not,” he said.

“These are issues that people spend a great deal of time reviewing and we review extensively the situation in Pakistan, in both countries,” added Brownback, whose formal title is Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

Answering an American reporter’s question as to why Pompeo did not follow the USCIRF recommendation to designate India as a CPC, Brownback said, “I can’t go into the decision-making process that the Secretary went through.”

But, he said, Pompeo is “well aware of a lot of the communal violence that is happening in India as well as aware of the statutes that have been enacted and some of the issues associated with the (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi government and, as I said, he has raised at the highest level, but just decided at this point in time not to place them on a CPC or a special watch list.”

Brownback said that there were also “several recommendations made by the commission that the secretary did not follow, and this was one of them.”

Pompeo did not follow the recommendations to designate Russia and Vietnam as CPCs. In addition to Pakistan, Pompeo put China, Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on the CPC list.