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  • Detained in Dubai

Expanding Indo-UAE ties unsettling in light of Latifa incident

Indo-UAE ties to expand Emirates’ sphere of influence a troubling development, given UAE’s record of human rights abuse and disregard for the rule of law; reveals short term thinking of Modi govt

To anyone who has lived in, or even visited the United Arab Emirates, one thing is obvious: the country could not function without Indians. Foreigners often joke that the national language of the Emirates is Hindi or Urdu, not Arabic. Indeed, in the 1950s, rupees used to be legal tender in the UAE. An Indian official once quipped that Abu Dhabi was India’s cleanest city.

Aside from supplying the UAE with the largest portion of its work force, India has always been one of the Gulf nation’s most important trading partners. Under the government of Narendra Modi, Indo-UAE ties have deepened, sometimes in unorthodox, even troubling ways.

“In some ways, what is emerging is a replication in third countries of the model that already exists inside the UAE; that is, Emirati money utilizing Indian labour and expertise to develop successful, profitable projects,” says Radha Stirling, CEO of Detained in Dubai and a leading international expert on the UAE, “The Emirates want to expand their reach and influence; they want to become a truly global player, and they see strategic partnership with India for development projects in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, as the most effective way to achieve that.”

Delhi and Abu Dhabi are in talks to set up second strategic oil reserve in India with UAE's support, which will increase India’s access to funds for infrastructure projects and defence purchases. India and UAE plan to set up an IT centre in Ethiopia using Delhi's expertise and the UAE's financing, with still further projects in the pipeline. Now, typically, such civil development projects by the UAE are offered part and parcel with more aggressive types of investment that give the Emirates dominance in key economic sectors, control of ports, and approval of military installations. “This is particularly true in the Horn of Africa, where the UAE wants to have a powerful presence in connection with their ongoing military campaign in Yemen,