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IANS

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, chaired the 14th edition of the UAE-India Joint Committee, which convened at the HQ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) in Abu Dhabi.

India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar led his country's delegation to the meeting on Thursday.

Addressing the committee's members, the UAE top diplomat said: "I would like to begin by extending a warm welcome to each of you. It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces in the room -- it is my hope that the United Arab Emirates by now feels like a second home.

"I am very pleased to be here today to witness the convening of the UAE-India Joint Committee in its 14th session. I must start by emphasising my gratitude for the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India. We have benefited greatly from their wise guidance and stewardship as our strategic relations broaden and deepen."

Sheikh Abdullah added that the ongoing dialogue between the two countries have yielded success in a broad range of areas, most notably the launch of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2017, and the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022.

"The growth of our economic relations brought about by CEPA has generated substantial opportunities in areas such as trade, investment, tourism, and aviation. Indeed, our respective economies have already begun to prosper under this agreement.

"India ranks as the top export partner to the UAE, second in terms of imports, and first in attracting foreign direct investments from the UAE. Additionally, air traffic between the two countries reached nearly 3.5 million passengers in 2021," he explained.

Sheikh Abdullah noted that the UAE is the second largest destination and source for Indian exports and imports, with a strong and growing position as a foreign direct investment source for India.

"The total trade between the two countries has reached an unprecedented level, climbing to almost $70 billion US in 2021. Indeed, our relationship is one of the most successful bilateral stories in the field of economic diplomacy.

"The success of our relationship has been augmented by the establishment of various multilateral cooperation initiatives. Our multilateral cooperation is an integral part of our strategy to advance Emirati-Indian relations, while enhancing our standing regionally and globally," he continued.

Sheikh Abdullah highlighted the successful collaboration within the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), as well as the cooperation between the two nations within the I2U2 grouping, as evidence of the existing and emerging opportunities the UAE and India have within international organisations and institutions.

"I also look forward to deeper cooperation with India via the intensification of the UAE's participation in the BRICS group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and the G20. We are eager to make meaningful contributions within these forums in a manner consistent with the UAE's standing in the international community," the Minister added.

He thanked India for its support for the UAE's candidacy for membership to the Council of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for the period 2023-2026.

"Furthermore, we value India's support for the UAE's re-nomination for membership in the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Group III for the period 2022-2025.

Addressing his Indian counterpart and his accompanying delegation, Sheikh Abdullah said" "Honourable Minister of External Affairs, Colleagues: As you will recall, upon the signing and implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, we set an ambitious goal of raising the volume of our non-oil trade to $100 billion over the next five years.

"In order to reach this goal and achieve the ambitious economic vision put forth by both sides, I have personally been keen to elevate the role of the UAE Embassy in facilitating trade, and investment cooperation. I hope that our Embassy will become a model for our embassies and missions all over the world.

"As we continue discussing the opportunities, achievements and distinguished relationships that comprise the UAE-India relationship, it also behooves us to tackle the challenges that emerge as we grow closer."

In this regard, Sheikh Abdullah urged both sides to work together constructively: "We must not put off addressing outstanding issues, but instead, we must devise intuitive and innovative solutions to our challenges to ensure that they can be consigned to history as yet another record of our success."

He underscored the need to progress issues of double taxation exemptions, and aviation, noting that these two areas "constitute an axis for our continued trade, investment and tourism growth."

Emirati-Indian relations, Sheikh Abdullah continued, have deep historical roots, which can be witnessed in the close social ties between the citizens of both countries. "There is no doubt that our shared values and customs, as well as our bonds of friendship have grown stronger over the last five decades.

"I look forward to the continued advancement of our cultural relations, including through the UAE's initiatives, such as the Zayed Gandhi Digital Museum', which honors the values of the Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, as well as celebrating the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth."

He stressed that the establishment of the 'Emirati-Indian Cultural Council', will create more opportunities for cultural cooperation. "In my view, encouraging joint cultural projects and dialogue between the leaders of both countries will be essential in developing deeper shared understandings.

"It is, after all, a solid cultural foundation that unites the Emirati and Indian peoples, enabling achievements across the political and economic fields."

Sheikh Abdullah concluded by thanking Jaishankar and members of the UAE and Indian delegations, calling upon the attendees to continue the outstanding work being done to continue to serve the two nations in pursuit of a common vision built on the values of peace, tolerance, and prosperity.

For his part, Jaishankar hailed the long-standing strategic relations between the two nations, commending the significant role played by the UAE when the global morale was low over the past period.

"We also appreciate that when global morale was low, the UAE conveyed a categorical message to the world that when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

"In the last two years, there has been a growing realisation on both sides that we are an integral element of each other's economy and political future. Our track record, in term of concrete deliverables, says it all. Conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 88 days underscores the commitment of both sides and makes a loud and clear statement to the world that where there is will, and trust, there is a way," he added.

The Indian Minister expressed happiness that in spite of Covid, the high level interaction between the two countries has continued.

"In this context, I wish to thank President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for receiving Prime Minister Modi in Abu Dhabi on June 28, 2022. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I think the picture of the warm embrace between our leaders was worth a million.

"Another historical accomplishment has been the unveiling of the Joint Vision Document by our leaders in February this year as a roadmap for our Partnership for the coming years and decades. I am happy to note that work has already commenced in several areas including Climate Action, Renewable energy, Health Cooperation in Africa, setting up IIT in the UAE, United Payment Interface, Skills Cooperation, setting up a Cultural Council and multiple other areas."

The two top diplomats then signed the minutes of the meeting of the 14th session of the UAE-India Joint Committee. They also witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Wildlife Institute of India and the International Fund for Houbara Conservation in the UAE. The MoU was signed by Abdullah Ahmed Khalaf Al Qubaisi, Managing Director of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, and Sunjay Sudhir, Ambassador of India to the UAE.

Sheikh Abdullah and his Indian counterpart also witnessed the signing of an MoU between MoFAIC and the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India on the establishment of the UAE-India Cultural Council Forum. It was signed by Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Cultural Affairs, and the Indian ambassador to the UAE.

Prior to the launch of the joint committee's work, Sheikh Abdullah met with his Indian counterpart to explore the avenues of further consolidating the strategic relations and comprehensive partnership ties between the two friendly countries. They also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues of interest.

The meeting was attended by Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade; Khaled Abdullah Belhoul, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for Cultural Affairs; Dr. Abdel Nasser Al Shaali, Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Dr. Ahmed Abdel Rahman Al Banna, UAE Ambassador to the Republic of India; Hamid Mohammed bin Salem, Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC UAE); Khalil Ibrahim Khoori, Under-Secretary for Human Resources Affairs; Abdullah Ahmed Al Qubaisi, Managing Director of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation; and a number of officials from both sides.

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