NEW DELHI: Has Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped into the recent breach between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates over Islamabad’s refusal to actively join the Yemen war against the Houthi fighters?
Indian media was clear that Mr Modi, on the last day of a two-day visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai on Monday, made veiled but unmistakable references to Pakistan, particularly in the context of terrorism, during a large public address to the Indian community.
“I am sure those that are being discussed here know it’s about them,” he said at the Dubai cricket stadium to loud applause. A joint statement between the two countries has a few pointers to the implicit Pakistan angle.
He mentioned every South Asian country, from Afghanistan to Bangladesh, as a partner in India’s progress, saying: “Those who do not wish to join us can choose their own destiny.”
The first prime ministerial visit from India “after 34 years marks the beginning of a new and comprehensive strategic partnership between India and UAE in a world of multiple transitions and changing opportunities and challenges,” the statement said.
The joint statement spoke of an extensive framework of agreements, including economic, defence, security, law enforcement, culture, consular and people-to-people contacts constitute solid bedrock for elevating bilateral cooperation across the full spectrum of our relationship.
“The two nations reject extremism and any link between religion and terrorism. They condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries,” the statement said. “They also deplore efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and disputes, including in West and South Asia, and use terrorism to pursue their aims.” Only in April this year, as Pakistani lawmakers called for the government to remain neutral in the crisis in Yemen, they evoked a strong response from the United Arab Emirates.
“The vague and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security — from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries,” UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash said at the time. References that might have once applied to ties with Pakistan were replete with India in Monday’s statement. It said: “Proximity, history, cultural affinity, strong links between people, natural synergies, shared aspirations and common challenges create boundless potential for a natural strategic partnership between India and UAE.
“Yet, in the past, relations between the two governments have not kept pace with the exponential growth in relations between their people or the promise of this partnership. However, the need for a close strategic partnership between UAE and India has never been stronger or more urgent, and its prospects more rewarding, than in these uncertain times.”
Several references to terrorism and related issues that India usually applies to Pakistan featured in the joint statement.
The two would “coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims. The two sides will facilitate regular exchanges of religious scholars and intellectuals and organise conferences and seminars to promote the values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and welfare that is inherent in all religions.”
Most significantly perhaps, they denounced and opposed “terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, calling on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.”
India and the UAE will enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity building. They plan to work together for the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
With implications for the underworld, they would come “together to control, regulate and share information on flow of funds that could have a bearing on radicalisation activities and cooperate in interdicting illegal flows and take action against concerned individuals and organisations.”
They plan to strengthen cooperation in “law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, other trans-national crimes, extradition arrangements, as well as police training.”
Indian newspapers say they have not been able to find any other reason for Mr Modi’s sudden rush to the UAE.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2015