India among UAE’s best friends: Emirati envoy

Dr. Ahmed Al-Banna, the Emirati envoy to New Delhi. (AN photo)
Updated 08 February 2018

India among UAE’s best friends: Emirati envoy

DUBAI: India and the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi are among the best friends of the UAE, the Emirati envoy to New Delhi, Dr. Ahmed Al-Banna, told Arab News.

Bilateral relations have reached a new level since Modi’s visit to the UAE in August 2015, Al-Banna said.

During his visit to the UAE on Feb. 10-12, Modi will deliver the keynote address at the Sixth World Government Summit, and interact with non-resident Indians at the Opera House in Dubai.

“The traditional relationship between the UAE and India has always been there in terms of trade, oil, gas, export and re-export,” said Al-Banna.

But since Modi’s 2015 visit and that of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in 2016, “a new track of strategic relationship has developed, and new sectors have been explored,” added Al-Banna, who will accompany Modi during his upcoming visit.

“We have three top-level committees with India. There’s a joint committee headed by (UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and (Indian Minister of External Affairs) Sushma Swaraj,” said Al-Banna.

“Then we have the strategic dialogue committee, which was formed during the last visit of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (to India) in January 2017. This committee is headed by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash and India’s Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar,” Al-Banna added.

“Then we have the special investment task force, headed by His Highness Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, president of the crown prince’s office in Abu Dhabi and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), and India’s Minister of Commerce Suresh Prabhu. This shows you the importance of the relationship.”

India is the UAE’s leading trade partner, with bilateral trade at about $53 billion, said Al-Banna.

Bilateral relations have acquired tremendous strategic significance, and India and the UAE are cooperating in the fields of defense and aerospace technology, he added.

They are also working closely together on information technology and related sectors, he said.

“Lately, there has also been concentration on what we call soft power, cultural diplomacy and interaction on many cultural levels such as art exhibitions, traditional dance troupes etc.,” he added.

The UAE has invested about $10 billion in India, of which $4 billion is foreign direct investment (FDI), he said.

“We’ve created a special fund along with the Finance Ministry, the National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), with a commitment from the UAE of about $75 billion over the next 10 years to support infrastructure projects in India,” he said.

Of that $75 billion, $1 billion was transferred to the NIIF nearly a month ago, Al-Banna added.

“During the past year, there has been an extra $1 billion investment in India from different UAE institutions and companies,” he said.

“In 2018, we’re likely to witness another $1.5 billion investment from the UAE in India.”

Al-Banna applauded the contributions of UAE-based Indian expats who are helping the two countries progress.

“There are more than 2.8 million Indians living in the UAE,” he said. “These people have contributed to the growth of the UAE on many different levels. They remit more than $13.4 billion a year to their families in India.”

He said his team has developed a plan “to reach out to different levels of the Indian population to create awareness that the UAE can offer many different opportunities.”

He added: “The UAE isn’t only a land of opportunities where people can go and work. It’s also a tourist destination, a major hub and a growing industrial sector.”

The UAE is culturally rich, safe, and has instilled a sense of comfort among people, he said.

“All nationalities living in the UAE, including Indians, consider the country their home,” he added.

“We’re trying, through many different means, to explain what the UAE is all about. Seeing is believing.”

Medical tourism is another important part of Indo-UAE relations, he said, adding: “We’re working very closely on medical tourism from India to the UAE in some specialized hospitals for treatments. We also receive a lot of UAE patients who are treated in many different hospitals in India.”

Al-Banna highlighted the campaign launched by the UAE to help Yemenis injured in the ongoing war in their country.

As a result of that effort, 1,700 Yemenis have been brought to India to get medical attention.

“We brought them to India for treatment, and they’ve been placed in many different hospitals under the supervision and support of the UAE government,” he said.


Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

Updated 20 min 34 sec ago

Homemade bomb kills Israeli teen, wounds two others in West Bank

  • Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects
  • Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years

JERUSALEM: A rare homemade bomb attack in the occupied West Bank killed an Israeli teen and seriously wounded her father and brother Friday as they visited a spring near a Jewish settlement, officials said.
Israeli security forces deployed throughout the area where the attack took place near the settlement of Dolev, northwest of Ramallah, to search for suspects.
Israeli medics had earlier reported that a 17-year-old had been critically wounded in the attack and officials later announced her death, naming her as Rina Shnerb from the central Israeli city of Lod.
Medics from the Magen David Adom rescue service initially gave the ages of the two wounded as 46 and 20, before amending to 21 in the latter case.
The army said the three victims were a father and his two children.
The two wounded were taken by helicopter to hospital, the army said.
“Three civilians who were in a nearby spring were injured in an IED (improvised explosive device) blast,” it said in a statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “harsh terrorist attack” and sent condolences to the family, while pledging to continue building settlements.
“The security arms are in pursuit after the abhorrent terrorists,” he said in a statement.
“We will apprehend them. The long arm of Israel reaches all those who seek our lives and will settle accounts with them.”
United Nations envoy Nickolay Mladenov condemned the “shocking, heinous” attack, saying there was nothing heroic in Shnerb’s “murder,” calling it a “despicable, cowardly act.”
“Terror must be unequivocally condemned by ALL,” Mladenov wrote on Twitter.
Israeli forces meanwhile entered the Palestinian village of Beitunia, south of the spring, to take footage from surveillance cameras.
An AFP reporter said Palestinians clashed there with Israeli soldiers, but no casualties were reported.
Chief of the army, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the site of the attack to understand the incident and oversee the efforts to locate the perpetrators, which he was “confident” would happen quickly, the military said.
Later in the day, Shnerb was buried in her hometown Lod, with thousands participating in the funeral.
Shnerb’s father Eitan, who was wounded and couldn’t attend the funeral, relayed through an uncle his request that people focus on “our strength and love and the wonderful nation and our good land” and avoid sinking into “weakness and anger and strife.”
“We should be worthy of the great sacrifice we offered today,” Eitan Shnerb was cited by the uncle as saying.
In a speech on Friday, Ismail Haniya, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement which rules Gaza, praised the attack but did not claim responsibility for it.
He referred to a recent clash between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at the highly sensitive Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and sought to draw a link between the two incidents.
AFP reporters said thousands of Gazans participated in weekly Friday protests at the Israeli border fence, with some youths using slingshots to launch stones at the barrier and a few approaching it.
The health ministry in the enclave said over 122 Palestinians were wounded in clashes with Israeli forces, dozens of them hit by live fire.
Palestinians sporadically clash with Israeli settlers and security forces in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967, but bomb blasts have been rare in recent years.
Palestinian attacks have mostly involved guns, knives and car ramming.
There have been concerns about a possible increase in violence in the run up to Israel’s September 17 general election.
A week ago, a Palestinian carried out a car-ramming attack in the West Bank, wounding two Israelis before being shot dead.
On August 8, an off-duty Israeli soldier’s body was found with multiple stab wounds. Two Palestinian suspects were later arrested.
Late Thursday, a Palestinian threw grenades at Israeli soldiers while attempting to cross the Gaza border and was shot by Israeli forces, leaving him wounded, the army and the Gaza health ministry said.
Gaza militants have also launched six missiles at Israel in the past week; the most recent were on Wednesday.
In retaliation, the Israeli army said it struck “a number of military targets in a Hamas naval facility in the northern Gaza Strip.”