UAE foreign minister’s India visit boosts ties

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in New Delhi on July 9, 2019. (WAM photo)
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in New Delhi on July 9, 2019. (WAM photo)
Updated 09 July 2019

UAE foreign minister’s India visit boosts ties

  • Both consider enhancing energy security amid Iran sanctions
  • The UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner and fourth-largest energy supplier

NEW DELHI: The UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Tuesday, concluding a three-day official visit.

The two discussed regional issues including terrorism, energy security and brewing tensions in the Middle East. “We talked at length about further improving economic and cultural relations between India and the UAE,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.

The Indian Foreign Ministry, in a statement, said Modi had “reiterated his strong commitment to work with the UAE leadership to take the relationship to higher levels in all spheres of cooperation, including in trade and economy, energy, tourism and contact.

“The foreign minister stated that India-UAE relations have never been better. He also outlined the UAE’s vision to enhance bilateral cooperation for the mutual benefit of the people of both countries and for peace, prosperity and stability in the region.”

Sheikh Abdullah also met his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues.

“The two discussed issues related to trade and investment, defense and security and energy security,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

Sheikh Abdullah’s visit comes at a time when the issue of energy security is high on New Delhi’s agenda after the imposition of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

The UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner and fourth-largest energy supplier. Modi visited the Gulf nation twice in his first term in the office — during his first visit in 2015 the countries upgraded their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The UAE invited India as its guest to the 46th Council of Foreign Ministers meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which it chaired in Abu Dhabi in March.

It is home to a 3.5 million-strong Indian community, the largest in the Gulf region.

New Delhi-based West Asia expert Zakir Hussain said: “Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed’s visit is the first interaction between the Modi regime since it returned to power in May 2019 and the UAE.

“The visit comes at a time when India is looking for a predictable source of energy supply after the disruption of the oil supply from Iran.

“Modi’s recent landslide victory in the election puts his government under great pressure to create more jobs and I am sure New Delhi must have discussed ways and means to expedite UAE investment in India.”


‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

Updated 58 min 18 sec ago

‘Terminator’ Rajapaksa storms to victory in Sri Lanka

  • Gotabaya Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism
  • His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists

COLOMBO: Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who spearheaded the brutal crushing of the Tamil Tigers 10 years ago, stormed to victory Sunday in Sri Lanka’s presidential elections, seven months after Islamist extremist attacks killed 269 people.
Rajapaksa conducted a nationalist campaign with a promise of security and a vow to crush religious extremism in the Buddhist-majority country following the April 21 suicide bomb attacks blamed on a homegrown militant group.
His triumph will, however, alarm Sri Lanka’s Tamil and Muslim minorities as well as activists, journalists and possibly some in the international community following the 2005-15 presidency of his older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Mahinda, with Gotabaya effectively running the security forces, ended a 37-year civil war with Tamil separatists. His decade in power was also marked by alleged rights abuses, murky extra-judicial killings and closer ties with China.
Gotabaya, a retired lieutenant-colonel, 70, nicknamed the “Terminator” by his own family, romped to victory with 51.9 percent of the vote, results from the two-thirds of votes counted so far showed.
“I didn’t sleep all night,” said student Devni, 22, one of around 30 people who gathered outside Rajapaksa’s Colombo residence. “I am so excited, he is the president we need.”
Rajapaksa’s main rival, the moderate Sajith Premadasa of the ruling party, trailed on 42.3 percent. The 52-year-old conceded the race and congratulated Rajapaksa.
On Sunday three cabinet members resigned — including Finance Minister Mangalar Samaraweera.
The final result was expected later on Sunday with Rajapaksa due to be sworn in on Monday. Turnout was over 80 percent.
Premadasa had strong support in minority Tamil areas but a poor showing in Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese heartland, a core support base where Rajapaksa won some two-thirds of the vote.
Saturday’s poll was the first popularity test of the United National Party (UNP) government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Wickremesinghe’s administration failed to prevent the April attacks despite prior and detailed intelligence warnings from India, according a parliamentary investigation.
Premadasa also offered better security and a pledge to make a former war general, Sarath Fonseka, his national security chief, projecting himself as a victim seeking to crush terrorism.
He is the son of assassinated ex-president Ranasinghe Premadasa who fell victim to a Tamil rebel suicide bomber in May 1993.
But Gotabaya is adored by the Sinhalese majority and the powerful Buddhist clergy for how he and Mahinda ended the war in 2009, when 40,000 Tamil civilians allegedly perished at the hands of the army.
Under his brother, Gotabaya was defense secretary and effectively ran the security forces, allegedly overseeing “death squads” that bumped off rivals, journalists and others. He denies the allegations.
This makes the brothers detested and feared among many Tamils, who make up 15 percent of the population. Some in the Muslim community, who make up 10 percent, are also fearful of Gotabaya, having faced days of mob violence in the wake of the April attacks.
Under Mahinda, Sri Lanka also borrowed heavily from China for infrastructure projects and even allowed two Chinese submarines to dock in Colombo in 2014, alarming Western countries as well as India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that India looked forward to “deepening the close and fraternal ties... and for peace, prosperity as well as security in our region.”
The projects ballooned Sri Lanka’s debts and many turned into white elephants — such as an airport in the south devoid of airlines — mired in corruption allegations.
Unlike in 2015 when there were bomb attacks and shootings, this election was relatively peaceful by the standards of Sri Lanka’s fiery politics.
The only major incident was on Saturday when gunmen fired at two vehicles in a convoy of at least 100 buses taking Muslim voters to cast ballots. Two people were injured.
According to the Election Commission the contest was, however, the worst ever for hate speech and misinformation.