The landmark visit by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi to UAE had been the focus of a large segment of the Indian, Emirati and unsurprisingly, the Pakistani media in recent days.
Analysing and examining the Pakistani media and ‘expert’ comments, it is clear that this visit has not gone down well with the Pakistani establishment. But a key question arises, why is Pakistan media reacting so negatively to Modi’s UAE visit in comparison to his visits to China, Russia and USA and other countries?
Multiple reasons have been stated as to why Pakistan should show concern about Modi’s visit to UAE. Prime Minister’s speech on terrorism, with an obvious dig on classification of good Taliban- bad Taliban was the only one with a particular reference to Pakistan.
Besides that, the setting up of UAE-India Infrastructure fund which could allot up to $75 billion in India is being seen as India’s achievement against Chinese investment in Gwadar port of Pakistan, the development of which is said to affect business in Dubai port in the future.
Moreover, with the UAE foreign minister recently having warned Pakistan of paying ‘heavy prices’ for its stand on the Yemen crisis, they may have reason to believe of a possible change in its relationship with the UAE, and the GCC countries in the broader sense, and this vacuum is ‘supposedly’ being filled by India as a result of its enmity with Pakistan on a wide range of issues.
But is it possible that the outcome of the visit would be the same or would things turn out any different considering that Pakistan factor had not played any role in this visit?
India has faced terrorist activities over several decades, and the Middle East is now facing this threat in possibly the most extreme form with ISIS, where a sizable recruitment is occurring from neighbouring countries to Syria and Iraq. Moreover, the establishment of the Islamic State threatens the whole ideology of the Saudi monarchy, of which UAE also forms a part.
Thus, there is reason for both to be concerned about terrorism and it made sense for them to issue a joint statement signalling mutual cooperation and partnership in combating terrorism. Modi has been on a spree of foreign tours and has raised concerns regarding terrorism in most countries, not to forget his Ufa visit where India and Pakistan jointly declared to address issues of terrorism.
Second, is the concern about promised investment of $75 billion by the UAE into India? UAE holds $800 billion in its sovereign wealth fund, and simply seeks to make productive investments in a promising market. India has been showing positive and healthy growth over a few years and continues to be the best performing economy among the BRICS nations.
This is further re-emphasised by promised deals made by Japan ($35 billion), China ($22 billion), Australia, Canada, Germany, Russia, USA etc. India gaining confidence among the nations worldwide as a good investment destination is not at all comparable to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and should not be seen as such.
There are 2.8 million Indian expats residing in UAE and 5 million expats all over GCC and they form a major chunk of population in the Middle East. UAE is India’s third largest trading partner and they have had a growing trade relationship year on year, all this goes to say that a Prime Ministerial visit to UAE was long overdue.
He has given speeches in many countries where there is a wide Indian diaspora, UAE forming the second largest, hence, his speech in Dubai should not come as a surprise to anybody. Another reception of Modi is soon to take place during his visit to Silicon Valley, California on 27th September. India has always had a place in its relationship with UAE, and vice versa.
Pakistan is wrong in considering India taking advantage of the small tremor (Yemen) in its relationship with GCC countries, with whom Pakistan have otherwise shared a positive relation over decades.
In conclusion, considering the situation independent of Pakistan’s relationship with UAE, it’s doubtful if Modi’s visit would have turned out any different. UAE is a sovereign country headed by a mature leadership, and their relationship with India should not be seen bound to or influenced by its relationship with Pakistan.
The majority of Pakistani media and some within the Indian media as well, have considered Modi’s visit to UAE more of a strategic and diplomatic attack on Pakistan rather than a genuine attempt to improve ties and boost trade between India-UAE. The interpretation made out of this trip has gone way beyond what it actually was.
(Lokesh is based in Dubai and writes on international affairs. He is a NewsMobile mobile journalist. The views expressed are personal)