An integral part of PM Modi's maiden trip--spanning the 16th and 17th of August-- to the United Arab Emirates will be a visit to a labour camp that hosts several Indian construction workers and other blue collar workers.
These workers are the mainstay of India's human resource export to the region since the oil boom of the 1970s and yet have been subject to the most flagrant human-rights violations while being neglected even by Indian authorities.
Nearly 2.5 million Indians, who make up nearly a third of the UAE population, remit more than $13 billion annually and are frequently the breadwinners of their families back in India.
“It is all about getting to meet an Indian Prime Minister visiting this country after 34 years,” Maharashtra’s Mustafa, who is a security guard at the ICARD labour camp on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi told the Hindustan Times. The last Indian Prime Minister to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was Indira Gandhi in 1981.
The main gate of the labour camp, 50 km from the city centre of Abu Dhabi, is closed for the past two days for security reasons. The camp spread over one square km is one of the better places for migrant workers to stay in the country. A room here now houses an average of five people against the 10-12 of them cramming it a year ago.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be addressing 300 Indians on Sunday afternoon in the precincts of the complex.
Modi's larger thrust during this trip will be to enhance cooperation in energy and trade and reach out to investors to pitch India as an attractive business destination.
Modi, ahead of his visit, described UAE as a “valued partner”. This fact, he said, was reflected in India being UAE’s second largest trading partner, while the Arabian nation comprising seven Sheikhdoms was the third largest trading partner for the country.
Abu Dhabi will be the first port of call for the Prime Minister, who will hold extensive talks on Monday with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
UAE, with a sovereign wealth fund of more than $ 800 billion, was very important from investment point of view and the Prime Minister is expected to impress upon the country to invest in infrastructure sector in India.
Security is another potential area of cooperation between India and UAE, which have treaties and agreements on extradition, mutual legal assistance in criminal and civil matters, combating trafficking in narcotics, and information cooperation apart from maritime interaction.
The two are expected to discuss ways to further enhance cooperation in these areas.
Apart from talks with the Crown Prince, Mr. Modi will visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a key place of worship and a masterpiece of Islamic architecture here. Constructed between 1996 and 2007, the mosque can accommodate around 40,000 people.
After visiting the mosque, the Prime Minister will fly to Dubai on 17th, where a hectic schedule would await him during a short stay of a few hours. In Dubai, he will meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE, visit world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa and address the Indian community at Dubai Cricket Ground.
Mr. Modi will also travel to Masdar City, a zero carbon and hi-tech city, wedded to the concept of cleaner and greener tomorrow.
Economic and commercial cooperation is a key aspect of overall bilateral relationship between the two countries. The traditionally close and friendly India-UAE ties have evolved into a significant partnership in the economic and commercial sphere.
Indians have emerged as important investors within the UAE and India as a major export destination for goods manufactured there. India-UAE trade, valued at $180 million per annum in the 1970s, has gone up to around USD 60 billion. India’s major imports from UAE include petroleum and petroleum products, precious metals, stones, gems and jewellery, minerals and chemicals.
The two countries have been cooperating in the defence sector too. The first meeting of Joint Committee on Security Matters had taken place here in March, 2013.
With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation in 2003, a Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) was established. The JDCC provides a platform for regular exchange of dialogue in the defence sector.