New Delhi, Sep 2: In what can be seen as a bid to strengthen ties with the Gulf region that is home to a large population of expatriates, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade next year.
This was announced by External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup here today.
“We hope to welcome a dear friend of India, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, as Republic Day 2017 Chief Guest,” he tweeted.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mohamed bin Zayed expressed “thanks for the kind invitation to attend Indias Republic Day celebrations”.
“Our strong relations are deeply rooted in history. Our strategic cooperation has increased, driven by our mutual aspirations to develop it,” the Crown Prince said.
The visit of Al Nahyan, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE armed forces, is expected to give boost to bilateral ties in the key areas of trade and security.
It is also significant given that UAE is a close ally of Pakistan, whom India is trying to diplomatically isolate over the issue of cross-border terrorism.
During Modis visit in August last year, the two countries had condemned efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.
They had also decided to strengthen their cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism.
Trade is another important component of the bilateral ties as UAE is Indias third largest trading partner after China and the United States. Bilateral trade between UAE and India is around USD 60 billion.
There are also more than 2.6 million Indians live in the UAE and their annual remittance is estimated to be around USD14 billion.
The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
This year, Modi visited Saudi Arabia where he was conferred with that Gulf nation’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash, and then Iran soon thereafter.
The last time a leader from the Gulf region graced the Republic Day as chief guest was when then King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud visited India in 2006.