UAE-Israel deal has opened ‘lots of opportunities’: S Jaishankar.

The normalisation of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has opened up “lots of opportunities” at a time when ties between New Delhi and Abu Dhabi too are growing, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has said.

India has welcomed the deal between the UAE and Israel, both key allies in West Asia, and also called for the resumption of direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership for a “two-state solution”.

Referring to the normalisation of ties between the UAE and Israel, Jaishankar told Gulf News: “When two strategic friends come closer it opens up lots of opportunities.”

India and the UAE, he said, have a “fast growing relationship”. He added, “UAE is central to India’s extended neighbourhood. We see UAE on the crossroads of international trade. As Singapore is in the East, UAE is in the West.”

The report in the Gulf News stated Prime Minister Narendra Modi had personally directed officials to give a new thrust to ties with the UAE after coming to power in 2014.

Over the past few years, New Delhi has expended considerable diplomatic capital in improving ties with West Asian countries, particularly members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Saudi Arabia, and the relations now extend from energy security to security and defence cooperation, including intelligence-sharing and counter-terrorism.

The presence of some 8 million Indian expatriates in West Asia has been a key factor in these efforts. The UAE and Saudi Arabia have also played a role in improving India’s ties with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), though differences remain on issues such as Kashmir.

Jaishankar’s visit to the UAE while he was foreign secretary in 2015 helped him build rapport with minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash and gave a boost to ties, the report said. Modi’s team also sought to go beyond the perception formed about West Asian countries through a narrow focus on the Israel-Palestine issue or merely as sources of energy, the report added.

In 2015, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit the UAE in 34 years, and Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2017. During the past six years, Modi visited the UAE three times.

Jaishankar said: “It is a relationship where the highest leadership of both countries have invested goodwill and energy. As a result, you can see the transformation during the last five years.”

In his new book The India Way – Strategies for an Uncertain World, Jaishankar has listed the UAE among the five countries that India must concentrate on while conducting its foreign policy.

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