Visits Visits

Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) on State Visit of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to India (January 24, 2017)

January 24, 2017

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: Good morning friends and welcome to the special briefing on the State visit of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

Who as you know is going to be the Chief Guest at our Republic Day Parade. He is arriving late evening today and we expect very substantive outcomes from this very important visit. To brief you on that I have with me Secretary (Economic Relations) Shri Amar Sinha, as well as our Ambassador to the UAE, Shri Navdeep Suri.

Overall picture through a comprehensive opening statement and thereafter we will take up the questions.

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is arriving today, mid-evening around 4:30 pm along with a large delegation consisting of a number of ministers and a large number of businessmen. The business part and economy minister would also be participating, besides the events in Delhi, we will also go to Vishakhapatnam for the CIIs Partnership Summit on 27th January.

The drill is, tomorrow he will be received as tomorrow is the official day of visit, so tomorrow i.e. on 25th he will be received at the Fore Court Rashtrapati Bhawan. Then he will go to Rajghat and later he will go for a one to one meeting with the Prime Minister at Lok Kalyan Marg. After that there will be delegation level talks at Hyderabad House where Prime Minister and Cabinet would be there. Prime Minister will be hosting a banquet lunch for him followed by the usual press statements and exchange of agreements.

In the afternoon the Vice President will meet him and then in the evening he calls on the President and there is a banquet hosted by President at the Rashtrapati Bhawan tomorrow.

Day after than i.e. 26th January, as he already said Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi is the Chief Guest of Republic Day celebrations. Besides witnessing the parade where we are actually getting a contingent from the UAE Air Force also, which will be parading along with our forces on Raj Path, he will also attend the At Home function in the afternoon hosted by our President. From there he will depart for UAE and the rest of his delegation will stay for Vizag.

Needless to add, UAE has seen intense activities and engagement since August 2015. Both the leaders have invested a lot of personal time and energy. You can see the chemistry, warmth and the rapport that has developed between them. From India’s perspective UAE remains one of our key partners in Gulf. I guess there can be no other better explanation that we have to pull out one of our top and brightest diplomats to come and serve as the Ambassador in UAE. That is a testimony of how we look at this relationship and nurture this relationship.

As you know Prime Minister visited UAE in August 2015, it was followed by the visit of Crown Prince here in February 2016 and in less than a year he is here as a Chief Guest. So this itself shows that we are paying a lot of attention. It is basically driven by four key factors which I would call as the pillars of our relationship.

First is trade & commerce. UAE remains one of our major partners. Last year the numbers were an impressive USD 50 billion. It is also a gateway for a lot of our exports to Africa and Central Asia etc. Then of course is investment. UAE also has the largest Sovereign Wealth Fund and we are looking for investments. There is an agreement that they will invest nearly USD 75 billion in India over the next couple of years. During the visit we are hoping that a MoU will be signed between their investment fund and NIIF (National Infrastructure Investment Fund) that we have created on our side which is at an advanced stage of discussions.

The second element is obviously the energy security, which is a big pillar. It is the fifth larger exporter of oil and we foresee that it will remain as a key partner. We are adding a new element to this relationship of just being a buyer, i.e. UAE has decided to become our strategic partner in the energy sector and will be both investing and filling up one of our key strategic petroleum reserves. We hope that the negotiations will conclude today. Last few issues are remaining and we will be able to sign an MoU on that.

Third is of course the welfare of the community. 2.6 million Indians reside and work in UAE. It is a very very important destination for both white collar and blue collar Indian workers. People are actually investing in real estate in Dubai. These are all huge areas of cooperation. A good outcome of the last visit has been that they have decided Abu Dhabi will provide land for a temple. The Indian community committee is taking that thing forward.

Defence and Security is emerging as a new area of cooperation. Here of course it is based on shared views, concerns about common threats. We are hoping this visit solidify the ideas that both the governments have worked on and you will see substantial results at the end of the visit in this particular area of security and defence.

In terms of the outcomes, already the decision had been taken that we will raise our relationship to strategic partnership level, however we are still signing an agreement, which is more like an action plan, which freshes out the idea of strategic partnership and brings in concrete ideas about what the two sides are committed to do in this partnership. Besides this a joint statement will be issued which will give the vision of the two leaders on how they look at this relationship evolving over the years.

I also mentioned that there would be an MoU on NIIF and investment authorities. Most probably there would be an agreement on strategic partnership in oil sector. We will also have an MoU in defence particularly focused on joint-manufacturing, purchase of equipment etc. We are looking at markets as our defence industry expands, but importantly UAE is also looking for dependable partners who can actually provide them equipment without conditionality and who can also supply them when they need it the most. The reliability and stability is something that they are looking in the partnership with India and we also feel that UAE will remain a very very critical partner for us.

Besides energy security there is something else i.e. predictability of trade remedies. We are doing an MoU with commerce and their investigative authorities so that the products that we exchange between each other have a predictable legal framework and when anti-subsidy or anti-dumping investigations happen, there would be closer cooperation in exchange of views and more importantly before we go into this quasi-judicial sort of path, we could find mutually acceptable grounds even before that. This was another key request that we had.

We are looking at having a visa exemption for the diplomatic and special passport holders. We are also looking at an MoU on maritime transport. This is a key MoU because one of the main objectives of this is to increase the people-to-people contact and increase tourism, hence we are really looking to work on cruise tourism between the west coast of India and UAE and also to some of the other destinations in the Gulf.

There would be a bilateral cooperation on land transport, but I won’t go through the list because you will have this tomorrow. So I think I would stop here and we will take questions unless our Ambassador wishes to add something here. I may add that as a preparation we have had the first strategic dialogue headed by their Minister of State and our own MOS M J Akbar on 20th January, where we discussed various elements of strategic partnership and the nuts and bolts of our relationship. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: The floor is now open for questions.

Question: Jab Prime Minister UAE gaye they tab ye baat aai thi ki UAE India mein kareeb USD 75 billion invest karega. Is baat ko dedh saal beet chuke hain, abhi kya status hai aur kitna investment aa chuka hai?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Abhi tak unka kareeb USD 4 billion already invest ho chuka hai. Bahut saari companiyan hain, jaise EMAR hai.

When we are talking about USD 75 billion, we are talking about Sovereign Investment Fund. Besides this there are major companies which have invested. For example DP World is a major investor in India, Etisalat has invested here. Some of these have some legacy issues which we are looking at resolving so that they gain that level of confidence in our Indian economy. And the fact is that they are looking at both portfolio investments as well as investments in green field projects. They are also looking at upstream and downstream industries in petroleum sector which they are negotiating with private Indian players.

Ambassador to UAE, Shri Navdeep Suri: If I can just add to that, as Secretary ER said that USD 75 billion investment refers to investment by some of their Sovereign Wealth Funds in Indian infrastructure, but if you go beyond that there are two major categories of UAE investment that have taken place in India. Dubai Holding, for example, is the main partner for the Kochhi Smart City which is coming up as the first and most ambitious project of its kind. There is another company of UAE which has invested significantly in Chennai, its called KEF Infrastructure, to establish entire pre-fabricated structures facility. So when you talk about affordable housing and hospitals and schools, they are already manufacturing pre-fabricated structures in India.

Even their sovereign wealth funds, ADIA for example i.e. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, has last year invested over half a billion dollar into Indian green energy companies, they have also invested into real estate companies. So there is a lot of other investment action that is taking place beyond that big ticket item.

One more point to add, in addition the new trend that we are seeing is that some of the best established NRI companies in UAE have also started to invest very significant way in India and that is a sign of there increased business confidence in India. The Lulu group for example has established India’s biggest hyper-market in Kochhi and they are setting up a second one in Thiruvananthapuram. The NMC group is establishing hospitals in India, as is the Universal Hospitals Group. So whether its in real estate sector or retail sector and even in manufacturing, now you can see the big NRI companies of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also putting their money in India.

Question: Over the last few weeks there had been talks about India wanting UAE to seize properties of Dawood Ibrahim on their soil. Has there been any developments on that front especially when that strategic dialogue took place?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: You want us to alert everybody and move their properties and titles underground. I think it is best left unsaid till something happens.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: This was also answered by MOS M J Akbar at the press conference where he said that we do not specific cases in the public domain and that’s how it will remain.

Question: One clarification, when you say USD 75 billion, you said 4 billion had already come in, is that not part of the 75 billion. Because what we understand from the UAE officials is that USD 75 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund hasn’t been set up yet, it was only announced a year and a half ago?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: The MoU is being finalized now with NIIF. NIIF itself didn’t have an administrative structure, that came up only a couple of months ago and since then the CEO has been to Abu Dhabi. They have talked to each other and exchanged the MoU and we are hoping they will sign it now.

Question Contd: India-UAE Strategic Partnership, when it comes to counter-terrorism, did UAE ask India to join forces in any way to counter terror particularly the ISIS threat in the Middle East coalition where UAE is already a part. Are we looking at any kind of joint partnership over there?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Being part of the coalition of 34 or 39 that they have, I don’t think that has ever been raised with India and I don’t think that will ever be raised. But yes the general cooperation in terms of intelligence sharing, specific action against others and I think the recent Kandhar event brought home the fact that the threat is very common as UAE diplomats also got killed. So that is also going to be an issues that will be discussed here.

Question: Mr. Sinha is this a kind of security arrangement and defence arrangement in the Gulf state because you have a stake hold in the event of the any eventuality happening there. Is there any visionary from Indian side, how to seek that stability and security is maintained in this part of the world where you can safeguard your own interest as well and the region?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: As I said we will be working with them both in Intelligence sharing and specific terrorist threats, but besides that on a larger security issue in terms of their air defence capability, petroleum anti-piracy, maritime security, cyber security. Because ultimately the largest threat emerges from radicalization and specifically the online radicalization that is happening. Given the policies we don’t see the UAE as a society which is wearing towards radicalization, in fact the policies are exactly the opposite. Obviously our discussion will focus on what else we need to do to insulate from this ISIS virus.

Question: You mentioned about the defence MoU. Can you elaborate what are the products that we are looking at selling to UAE and what kind of defence manufacturing and production arrangements we are looking at?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Going into details, but obviously they are looking at armaments, armored person carriers, joint production of air crafts etc. To give you an example, I am not saying that its concrete, Rafael is an aircraft which we are buying, UAE also uses it so there is this interest that is there anything which we can do together in terms of the portion of Rafael that would be built in India. Those are the areas that we are trying to identify and work together.

Question: Some weeks ago a delegation of the DRDO had gone to the UAE for discussing the possibility of selling the Brahmos missile there. Could you tell us what has happened on that?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: The discussions have happened. I don’t have the exact details but we are also looking at products which have been designed and developed in India because as you know it becomes easier to export it.

Question Contd: Brahmos is a half Indian missile.

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Correct, half Indian. We will focus on full Indian products. You see this is the question of who holds the IPR. So if it is trilateral or quadrilateral, it becomes slightly more difficult since more countries are involved, but there are products which India has developed and there are several such products.

Question: I just want to know about the MoU between the Sovereign Wealth Fund and NIIF, the MoU that is going to be signed hopefully tomorrow is going to obviously pave the way but does that establish the governance structure? Could you give us some details about this?

Ambassador to UAE, Shri Navdeep Suri: The issue of the arrangement with NIIF has been under very active discussion. It has taken us a while to establish NIIF, it has taken us a while to appoint a CEO which only happened last September, to get his team which is hardly five or six people. It is going to take some time before the NIIF as a big umbrella body which will do serious investments in infrastructure, really has the capacity to absorb significant amount of funds and be in a position to invest.

We see Abu Dhabi Investment Authority as a crucial partner to NIIF. Its going to take a while to have that mechanism in place, the capacity in place to invest big time in major projects. What I can tell you coming from Abu Dhabi is the very strong interest from the ADIA in working with NIIF as the vehicle and to follow-up on the conversations that we have been having and will be having tomorrow. ADIA has already told us that they are sending a really top-level team at the end of February with several of the Sectoral Heads and their Executive Directors to look at particular opportunities.

I see this as a work in progress, I don’t see it as an event that happens at a point of time. You have broad umbrella arrangements, but the specifics of that USD 75 billion flowing through NIIF into ports, highways, airports, renewable energy and other sectors is going to take a while and for that we have to have large commercially viable and credible projects that we can offer to investors. So there is work to be done here yet.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: MoU will provide the framework for the NIIF and the modalities that are to be worked out and the funds to start getting processed.

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: MoU will also create the necessary administrative structure i.e. how that fund would be administered jointly. But without waiting for that we have actually in October when we had the Economic Forum meeting, we did make sectoral presentations both on Railways and Highways. We have identified five or six projects each which are ripe for investments even without the NIIF route. So that is a call that they have to take that is where they wish to invest. But let me also add that we are also looking at new areas, besides the four traditional pillars that I had mentioned. Of course the defence and security would be enhanced substantially, but we are also looking at space cooperation, civil nuclear energy cooperation and greater and enhanced cooperation in IT and IT services. So these will be the three new focus areas from our perspective.

Question: You said the two countries are having strategic partnership in energy security. What is going on at present and what is going to happen in future in this sector?

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I think the Secretary was very categorical. He said that UAE is the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to us. They are going to be investing in one of our strategic oil reserves. We have several strategic locations and they will be our partners in one such locations and that will contribute overall to India’s energy security. So I think it is fairly clear.

Question: For long UAE has been considered a very close friend of Pakistan. What are the factors that have resulted in UAE seeming to move towards India and away from Pakistan? There is also a school of thought that Saudi Arabia and UAE are moving closer to India because the Pakistan army refused to participate in the campaign in Yemen. Do you give credence to this and what are the factors that they have moved closer to us and away from Pakistan?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: I wouldn’t like to speculate on factors that affect UAE’s relation with other countries, they all are driven by their own dynamics and realities. What I can talk to you is about why India is a preferred destination or partner and I think the answer is obvious. They realized the potential of the Indian economy. Indians form the largest expatriate group which has not only contributed but also has been extremely peaceful and very well adjusted to the society. Education, healthcare etc. India is important destination for all these and for other Gulf countries, I don’t know whether they are going to Pakistan. Whether it’s a conscious move or a natural one, I think the progression of relationship given the dynamics of the region is something I will leave it to you to speculate.

Question: You have talked about legacy issues of big investments of UAE. What are the specific demands from UAE and how India is going to solve this? Is there any time frame for this?

Secretary (ER), Shri Amar Sinha: Well the specific demand is that we resolve these issues quickly. It has taken time because we are unable to predict as these are not executive decisions, these all issues which are subjudice in different courts. So we are trying to see whether we can ring fence some of their investors without diluting the main cases because Indians are also involved in these cases so the government doesn’t want to do anything which dilutes the overall case. Given that restriction and the fact that we will have to work with our judiciary so that we can have an early resolution of these cases.

Ambassador to UAE, Shri Navdeep Suri: If I can just add to that, in several cases we have made tangible progress and several of the so called legacy cases have been resolved by the high level task force that was established after the last visit. And the friends in UAE acknowledge the progress that has been made in the last several months in resolving some long standing cases.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Vikas Swarup: I don’t see any other questions, so this press conference comes to a close. Just a reminder that at 4 O clock we have another press conference which will be addressed by MOS General V K Singh and MOS Posts Shri Manoj Sinha on the integration of Passport Seva Project with the Post Offices which I think is going to be revolutionary step in making passports easier to obtain for ordinary Indian citizens.

Thank you all.



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