Dubai: A major component in the development of the United Arab Emirates has been the contribution of the Indian community, a former UAE diplomat has said.
"There are three pillars to the UAE's success and the Indian community is one of them," said Mirza Hussain Al Sayegh, who served as first deputy ambassador in New Delhi in 1973 and was also head of the UAE Consular Mission in Mumbai during 1974-1976.
Al Sayegh's views, expressed in an interview to the English daily Gulf News, reiterated the enduring strength of ties the UAE and India have shared for over a century.
Al Sayegh said the three-day visit to India, beginning Wednesday, of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was another milestone in the mutual journey of goodwill and cooperation between the two countries.
Sheikh Mohamed's visit comes after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to the UAE last August.
During bilateral talks with the Indian political leadership, he will address economic and strategic issues of mutual interest, including their stand on combating terrorism. At least 16 trade agreements are also likely to be signed.
Al Sayegh said that since the time of Sheikh Maktoum bin Hasher in 1894, the ruling families have built a credible, stable, reliable relationship with India.
"The people relied on India because it was the source of supplies, and also the main trade route for merchants, whether it be for foodstuffs or medicine. And vice versa. Emiratis would also use the trade route to sell their dates and pearls," he said.
It was after Indira Gandhi's visit to the country in 1981 that the relationship between the UAE and India was bolstered and reached new heights, Al Sayegh said.
Gandhi was the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the UAE, and Al Sayegh said her visit had a significant impact on the country, particularly during the 1980s when relations with India's culture, industry, trade and diplomatic missions started to grow.
"I cherish the relationship the two countries enjoy with each other, and since Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit last year, the relationship has gone from strength to strength," he said.
"The ruling families, the citizens and the people of India are the three pillars that have made the UAE what it is today. We look at India as our big brother," he said.