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Ties that bind: Just how deep are India and UAE’s ties?
UAE needs an economic injection and expat businessmen are offering easing visa restrictions for friendlier long-term migration as a solution. Will UAE take up their offer?
June 29, 2011 3:57 by Precious de Leon
The first currency used in the UAE was the Gulf Rupee. It was used in the UAE until 1966, when the Trucial states decided to use the Bahraini Dinar, before finally settling with the UAE Dirham in 1978.
The Gulf Rupee was issued by the Indian Government and is equivalent to the Indian Rupee – a clear indication of the strength of the relationship between India and its Gulf neighbours, let alone the amount of trade that was going on at the time even before the creation of what is now the United Arab Emirates.
And that relationship still translates well into the present day with India and the UAE still each other’s largest trading partner, with a trade valued at around $44 billion (Dh161.60 billion) annually in non-oil sectors.
And of course this close trade relationship has made the overlaps of culture inevitable and more so one way then the other. Indian food and Bollywood entertainment have undoubtedly seeped into the Emirati culture, with even a handful of Emiratis fluent in speaking Hindi.
So it’s nice to see UAE’s Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s column in Gulf News today putting the spotlight on the importance of UAE-India ties.
And 30 Indian businessmen are rather hoping this kind of lipservice goes into action as they sit in for what they call an ‘open heart’ meeting with residency authorities, hoping to create an easier route for Indian businesses to flourish in the UAE.
In the meeting with Major General Mohammad Al Merri, Director-General of the General Department for Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, the businessmen appealed for easing restrictions on people living, working and visiting the country to help boost economic activities.
Their suggestions include increasing the residency permit period to ten years; setting aside categories of residents eligible for citizenship; and including Indian passport holders into the list of nationalities exempt from having to apply for visit visas.
Some of the businessmen have lived in Dubai for more than 50 years.
And yet even the Foreign Minister himself admits in his column that “despite this much intertwined relationship, the UAE and India have followed very different trajectories in establishing their political and developmental paths, each with its own objective agenda and vision.”
Recently, the UAE extended the length of the property visa from six months to three years, in hopes of encouraging investors to swoop in and save the country’s freehold property market. So perhaps heeding some of these requests or at least meeting them halfway is a more than a possibility.
However, expatriates who have lived in this country for a while must also face the reality of eventual full on nationalisation that the government has been pushing for years now.
True, there is a strong symbiosis between expatriates and the UAE as their host country. But equally undeniable is the strong sentiment towards eventual Emiratisation.
So while Major General Al Merri promised to raise the businessmen’s concerns to the proper authorities, the businessmen will hopefully be pragmatic about the outcome of the heart-to-heart, er ‘open heart’ meeting.