Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince to visit India next week to boost security ties

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Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Abu Dabhi, Crown Prince and UAE Deputy Commander of Armed Forces and chief architect of growing counter-terror partnership with India that has enabled the Gulf nation to deport a number of ISI-backed terror operatives andIslamic State (IS) radicalized youth to Delhi, will be visiting here next week, hoping to expand the bilateral security architecture.

Zayed Al Nahyan’s proposed India visit on February 11-12 comes in the backdrop of UAE handing over three Indian IS sympathisers to Delhi last week, taking the total number of radicalized youth deported by the Gulf country here since last year to a dozen.

The men are believed to be members of the Abu Dhabi module of the IS. Zayed Al Nahyan’s visit will be yet another opportunity to discuss counter-terror initiatives amid the threats from not only IS but also Pak-based terror groups which try to misuse UAE to conduct operations, said people in the know of things.

It may be recalled that UAE was among the countries that came out in India’s support within days of the recent Pathankot attack and even suggested that the terror strike should be investigated, in what’s seen as an indirect reference to Pakistan. In a statement, the UAE Foreign Ministry had said, “In the wake of this heinous attack, the UAE is encouraged by the determination of international community to work hand in hand in order to investigate the incident and address the issue.”

Last year during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to both Abu Dabhi and Dubai, India and the UAE had announced a comprehensive counter-terror partnership that even called for delinking terror from religion and denounced state-sponsored terror in an indirect message to Pakistan notwithstanding the strong ties between Islamabad and the Gulf state. Intelligence and information sharing have been the cornerstones of this growing counter-terror initiative that have been put in place by Zayed Al Nahyan on whose invite Modi visited UAE last August. This key member of the UAE royalty is regarded as his country’s key interlocutor on counter-terror initiatives.

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The oil-rich Gulf which is also home to thousands of Indians has been steadily expanding security ties with India during the past few years, agreeing to Delhi’s request for action against terror operatives active in Af-Pak region and curbing on sources of terror finances.

Last September, UAE deported four Indians with suspected links with the ISIS. In 2015, it also sent back a 37-year-old woman Afsha Jabeen, who was allegedly involved in recruiting for the Islamic state.

In January last year, Salman Mohiuddin of Hyderabad was arrested when he was preparing to board a flight to Dubai on way to Syria via Turkey. A total of 23 Indians have so far joined the IS and among them are two absconding members of the banned Indian Mujahideen who had gone from their hideouts in Pakistan.

The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince is also expected to visit Mumbai besides Delhi where investments from the Gulf country in key sectors identified by the Modi government will top the agenda. United Arab Emirates has identified key sectors including railways, housing, ports, roads and renewable energy (mainly solar) for investments in India as part of the $ 75-bn investment fund announced during Prime Minister’s August trip. UAE has a diversified non-oil economy and the Gulf state is looking to invest in a lucrative market like India.

Zayed Al Nahyan’s trip will be the fourth high-level engagement since last August between Delhi and Abu Dabhi as there’s a new momentum in ties. Modi’s trip to the UAE last August — the first by an Indian PM to this Gulf country in three decades — was followed by their foreign minister’s visit within a fortnight. This was followed by union finance minister Arun Jaitley’s trip to the UAE last month to discuss proposed investments and trade treaty.

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His visit will also be an opportunity for both sides to exchange views on West Asian situation in the backdrop of the Syrian crisis, low oil prices and Iran-Saudi acrimony. Since early part of this month, West Asia has been the focus of the Modi government with Delhi hosting Syrian Deputy PM, and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj making back-to-back trips to the region (Palestine, Israel and Bahrain). There are speculations that Modi might visit both Iran and Saudi Arabia this year.

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