External Affairs

Diplomacy Decoded: Terrorism in the India-UAE Joint Statement

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Monday. Credit: PTI Photo

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at a meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE on Monday. Credit: PTI Photo

Summits usually produce joint statements full of diplomatese and the problem with the argot of diplomacy is that it converts even new and interesting developments into something that sounds routine and dull.

The joint statement released on August 17 at the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two day visit to the United Arab Emirates is a good example of this. Hidden within its ponderous formulations is evidence of important shifts in the way the two countries, and especially the UAE, intend to approach major regional and international issues, especially terrorism.

Here is The Wire‘s guide to decoding the text.

First, the lede:

  • The visit of an Indian Prime Minister to UAE after 34 years marks the beginning of a new and comprehensive strategic partnership between India and UAE in a world of multiple transitions and changing opportunities and challenges.

So we are being told there is something new here. The two countries are re-evaluating relations three and a half decades after their last serious interaction at the highest political level (Pratibha Patil’s 2010 visit to the UAE as President doesn’t really count) and have decided to take a strategic, long-term view of their partnership.

Then the ambitious economic agenda, including the pitch to generate $75 billion in FDI from the UAE for India. The UAE is India’s third largest trading partner while India is the Emirates’ second largest trading partner:

  • Encourage the investment institutions of UAE to raise their investments in India … with the aim of reaching a target of USD 75 billion to support investment in India’s plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.
  • Promote strategic partnership in the energy sector, including through UAE’s participation in India in the development of strategic petroleum reserves, upstream and downstream petroleum sectors, and collaboration in third countries.
  • Further promote trade between the two countries, and use their respective locations and infrastructure for expanding trade in the region and beyond; and, with the target of increasing trade by 60% in the next five years.

When it comes to terrorism—described as a ‘shared threat to peace, stability and security in the region’—the joint statement gets pretty interesting, with no less than four implicit references to Pakistan:

  • The two nations … condemn efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries. They also deplore efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and disputes, including in West and South Asia, and use terrorism to pursue their aims.
  • Denounce and oppose terrorism in all forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, calling on all states to reject and abandon the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they exist, and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.
  • Call on all nations to fully respect and sincerely implement their commitments to resolve disputes bilaterally and peacefully, without resorting to violence and terrorism.

These sentences are remarkable because they go beyond the stock formulation of decrying terror and indicate the UAE now shares India’s concerns about the export of terror from Pakistani territory, the fact that this export has the tacit backing of Islamabad, and is aimed at allowing Pakistan to resile from its commitment to resolve “disputes [read: the Kashmir issue] bilaterally and peacefully”.

Going beyond the specific threats posed by states which use terror, the India-UAE joint statement also commits the two sides to work against radicalisation:

  • Coordinate efforts to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims. The two sides will facilitate regular exchanges of religious scholars and intellectuals and organise conferences and seminars to promote the values of peace, tolerance, inclusiveness and welfare that is inherent in all religions.

Hard security cooperation against terrorism also figures prominently in the statement, although there is no reference to the threat posed by an specific organisation like Daesh (Islamic State) :

  • Enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence sharing and capacity building.
  • Work together to control, regulate and share information on
    flow of funds that could have a bearing on radicalisation activities and cooperate in interdicting illegal flows
    and take action against concerned individuals and organisations.
  • Strengthen cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug trafficking, other trans-national crimes, extradition arrangements, as well as police training.
  • Promote cooperation in cyber security, including prevention on use of cyber for terrorism, radicalisation and disturbing social harmony.

At the broader level, the UAE and India have committed themselves to

  • Work together for the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations.
  • Establish a dialogue between their National Security Advisors and National Security Councils. The National Security Advisors, together with other high level representatives for security from both nations, will meet every six months. The two sides will also establish points of contact between their security agencies to further improve operational cooperation.

The CCIT has been hanging fire in part because of Arab opposition to language that might be seen as labelling the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation as ‘terrorism’. What the UAE’s backing means and what wider effect this might have in the region remains to be seen.

Finally, there is also a nod in the direction of the massive Indian diaspora in the UAE and the wider Gulf region:

  • UAE is at the heart of the Gulf and West Asia region and its major economic hub. India, with seven million citizens in the Gulf, also has major energy, trade and investment interests in the region.
  • Today, the Indian community of over 2.5 million is a major part of UAE’s vibrant society and its economic success. It also makes a significant economic contribution to India and constitutes an indelible human bond of friendship between the two nations.
  • Prime Minister thanked His Highness the Crown Prince for his decision to allot land for construction of a temple in Abu Dhabi.