Modi’s visit to the UAE and the Sino-Indian rivalry in the Middle East

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE comes as the two countries enjoy strong trade and cultural ties, with Indians making up 35% of the UAE’s 10 million population, the largest Indian expatriate community in the world. The UAE appreciates the contributions of the Indian community to the process of development, construction and development since the founding of the UAE, in addition to its role in strengthening cultural and economic ties between the two countries and their peoples. He also awarded Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the highest civilian award in the United Arab Emirates during his visit to the UAE in 2019.  This visit is also a thank you from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his Emirati counterpart, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Nahyan, for a model of what the first Hindu temple will be like in Abu Dhabi, describing it as a “testimony to tolerance” in the UAE. With the UAE allocating a land of 20,000 square meters to build the largest Hindu temple in Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi. Here comes the gesture of the visit of the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, Muhammad Al-Essa, to India and his meetings with a number of high-ranking personalities, led by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

 The affirmation of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, during his meeting with Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, of the UAE’s support for India’s presidency of the G20, as an ideal opportunity to enhance multilateral action and establish a sustainable model for constructive international cooperation on a number of important issues, including  Combating climate change, reforming multilateral institutions, empowering women, renewable energy, and promoting sustainable economic growth. Their comprehensive strategic partnership has resulted in many developmental achievements that support the vision of India and the UAE to achieve sustainable economic prosperity.

 The relationship of cooperation between India and the UAE is based on the policy of rational realism. With the Indian side searching for new markets such as the Gulf, African and UAE markets, of course, on top, within the framework of India’s policy of moving between East and West.  India is trying to pursue a new foreign policy that relies on promoting economic opportunities and expansion in countries where it had no foothold before, and is trying to open opportunities for cooperation with Middle Eastern and African countries, especially in light of the economic competition with China.  Here, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to adopt a new approach in his country’s foreign policy, and this explains his tours between Washington, Cairo and Paris, and then the start of his visit to the Emirates, in an Indian attempt to explore new political circles.  

  Trade between India and the UAE is also valued at $59 billion, making the oil-rich Gulf country India’s third largest trading partner for the year 2023 after China and the United States.  The UAE is also the third largest export destination for India, with its exports recording nearly $16 billion this year.  In February 2022, the two sides signed a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.  Indian wheat, as well as other food exports, is of particular importance to the UAE.

   Also, that visit will serve as an opportunity to discuss cooperation between the Indian and Emirati sides to discuss a number of global issues, especially in light of the UAE’s presidency of the 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as India’s presidency of the Group of Twenty, in which the UAE is invited in particular.

 We find that Narendra Modi’s visit to the UAE also bears a competitive character with the Chinese side, just as the Indian-American alliance in the Indo-Pacific region in Asia has also extended to besieging and cordoning off Chinese expansion in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf, led by the UAE, especially after fear of the US has built a huge military facility and base in the UAE, which triggered alarm signals in the United States of America about the credibility of its Emirati ally in the Gulf region, and even the extent of its ability to maneuver and risk its strong relationship with the United States of America.  Therefore, Washington is trying, through its close relations with the capital, New Delhi, to secure its presence in the UAE to impede Chinese influence there, especially after Washington’s attempts to thwart the Chinese effort to build a military base in the UAE, which was what US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sought to stop during his Gulf tour.

  Therefore, the importance of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit comes primarily to strengthen the Indian presence in the face of Chinese competition with it, especially after China strengthened its economic relations in recent years with the UAE, and the fact that it has become one of its largest trading partners in the region, as well as the fears of the US has strengthened after the UAE’s dealings with the Chinese company Huawei, which Washington has banned due to concerns about its relations with the ruling Communist Party in China and its relations with the Chinese army, according to US fears, in addition to Washington accusing Beijing of extensive espionage operations accusing the Chinese company of Huawei, which supported its presence and market in the country.  Emirates and the Gulf.  Therefore, Narendra Modi’s visit came at this particular time, as an indirect attempt by the American-Indian sides to obstruct and restrict the Chinese expansion towards the Emirates and the Gulf. This is the logical reason and the exact explanation for the timing of Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UAE.    

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit