Photo Credit: GPO
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet in NY late Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, ahead of Netanyahu's speech at UN General Assembly

Is the United Arab Emirate on the path of improving its ties with two of the world’s finest democracies,  Israel and India? 

According to a report  Israel is to open an official – and visible – diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi shortly. The new legation will be officially accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), based in Abu Dhabi. Director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Dore Gold was recently in Abu Dhabi to participate in the biannual meeting of IRENA’s Council. The main purpose of his trip was to finalize the opening of the mission.  Diplomat Rami Hatan has been appointed to head the Israeli legation. Office  space for the new mission has already been found and is undergoing final preparations for the formal opening. 


In January 2010 Uzi Landau, Israel’s minister for infrastructure, participated in an IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi. This was the first time an Israeli cabinet minister had visited the UAE. One month later, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a leading Hamas militant, was assassinated in Dubai. In  January 2014 Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Silvan Shalom gave a speech at an IRENA conference in the UAE and met with a number of Arab government ministers. At present, the agency has 145 member states . None of these countries has a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi accredited solely to IRENA. Israel will be the only country with a diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi that is accredited solely to IRENA. 

Knowledgeable sources say the United Arab Emirates today is improving its ties also with India, another democracy. The recent  dialogue between India’s  Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi  is sure to usher in a new era in Indo-UAE relations .  India is a big market and its major oil consumer. The UAE wants to optimize its trade and investment opportunities available in India. The  joint statement made after the talks between Modi and Al Nahyan reflects a convergence on fighting terror . It calls on the two nations to “co-ordinate efforts to fight radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred, perpetrating and justifying terrorism or pursuing political aims.” 

I would ,  however, warn both Jerusalem and New Delhi  against being too optimistic about their ties with the UAE. The sources say its  recent bonhomie  with Israel may be  purely because of a shared antipathy toward Iran.”  Both  Israel and the gulf states have opposed the Iranian nuclear dealwith the United States and other world powers, and are worried about Tehran’s growing involvement in regional conflicts including  in Syria and Yemen. 

As for New Delhi, it would do well to bear in mind that the UAE has been one of the important financers of the ideology behind an anti-India Sunni Islamist project . Besides, the UAE is still to demonstrate if it really intends to cooperate with India .  During Prime Minister Modi’s UAE visit, New Delhi sought the extradition of 10 persons, several of them wanted in terror cases. There is an extradition treaty between India and the UAE . The UAE has done little to implement it so far. India’s underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts, is said to be visiting Dubai every now and then. The United Arab Emirates is one of the ten countries where this don has amassed massive wealth and assets. It is to be seen if the UAE curbs the flow of his finances and activities. 

Also, the UAE is highly unlikely to be supportive of India’s Kashmir policy. In the recent past the UAE has described Kashmir as an “internal matter” to be resolved between India and Pakistan. But traditionally, Pakistan and the UAE have been very close . Pakistani troops have imparted training to members of the Abu Dhabi defense forces. The first Chief of Air Staff of the UAE was Air Cdre Ayaz Ahmed Khan. Many Pakistani personnel have served in the UAE Army and Navy too.



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Jagdish N. Singh is an Indian journalist based in New Delhi.