Abu Dhabi Crown Prince to Be Next Republic Day Chief Guest

The invitation to the Abu Dhabi crown prince, who will succeed his brother as UAE president, is likely to irritate Pakistan, especially when relations with India are perhaps at their lowest point since Modi took over as PM in May 2014.

New Delhi: Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will be the chief guest at the 2017 Republic Day parade – the first leader from the United Arab Emirates to be extended this invitation.

The announcement was made by the Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup on his twitter account, and what followed then was a unique use of Twitter by the sheikh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Half an hour later, the official twitter account for the Crown Prince also confirmed.

He also noted India-UAE “strategic cooperation” has increased.

The Indian Prime Minister responded, stating that the Crown Prince’s visit will give a  “boost” to bilateral ties.

The last time that a Gulf leader was the chief guest was Saudi King, in 2006.

The invitation to the Abu Dhabi crown prince, who will succeed his brother as UAE president, is likely to irritate Pakistan, especially when relations with India are perhaps at their lowest point since Narendra Modi took over as prime minister in May 2014.

When Modi had visited UAE in August 2015, the joint statement’s stress on fighting terrorism was seen as an implicit signal to Pakistan.

The UAE’s tilt towards India was interpreted in Islamabad as an offshoot of the Emirates’s ire with Pakistan for refusing to join the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis in Yemen. Pakistan has had a close relationship with the Gulf kingdom, especially in the defence sector.

When the crown prince made a reciprocal visit in February this year, the section on terrorism in the joint statement was equally emphatic.

 The two leaders strongly condemned extremism and terrorism in all of their forms and manifestations, irrespective of who the perpetrators are and of their motivations. They reiterated that any justification for terrorism and any link between extremism or terrorism and religion should be strongly rejected by the international community. They reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy. They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’, and to cut all support to terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states.

The two sides deplored the use of double standards in addressing the menace of international terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system. (emphasis added)

During both the state visits, the leaders were welcomed at the airport by their respective counterparts, which was a break from protocol.

There has also been an effort to take economic ties to a higher level, with the UAE committed to invest $75 billion in Indian infrastructure. India and the UAE had signed an MoU to facilitate Emirati investment.

According to a Gulf News report in August, UAE’s total investment flow till March 2016 was $4.03 billion.

The chief guest at the January 26 parade in 2016 was the French president, Francois Hollande. And in 2015 it was US president Barrack Obama.

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