Why did Prime Minister Narendra Modi invite the crown prince of Abu Dhabi for Republic Day celebrations?

Vinayak Jain

 Republic Day is soon arriving, & the celebrations will be as grand as ever. Amidst all the patriotism & fanfare will be seated Prime Minister Modi alongside the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi & Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of the UAE Sheikh Mohamed. This could well be the strongest push to India-UAE ties along with Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to the UAE.

Significance of the Invitation

Prime Minister Modi’s invitation is highly significant for two major reasons –

  • Isolating Pakistan – Pakistan is seen as being very close to the UAE. Both being Islamic nations, Pakistan sees the UAE as its ‘natural’ ally both economically & culturally. But PM Modi desires to elevate India-UAE ties to a pedestal which Pakistan can’t even dream to match. His recent visit to the UAE was an extremely fruitful & historic one. One the biggest takeaways from the visit was that the UAE explicitly condemned terror & the act of sponsoring terror, thus targeting Pakistan. This was seen as a major shift in India-UAE relations with the UAE siding with India on this issue. This visit of the Crown Prince will send another clear signal to our rogue neighbour that even nations that it thinks as its eternal allies, are now moving closer to India.
  • Expanding Trade – There is always scope for greater trade, & Prime Minister Modi is looking to expand India’s influence in the Middle East. With China having established the Gwadar Port in Pakistan, India hopes to gain greater access to the UAE through the India-Iran-Afghanistan Chabahar Port in Iran. India-UAE trade stands at around $60 billion, & it is estimated to reach $100 billion by 2020.

Underlying Geopolitical Strategy

The chief guest for the 2015 Republic Day, which was the first for Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, saw US President Barack Obama as the chief guest. The next chief guest was French President Francois Hollande. And this year it’ll be the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed.

There is a clear strategy to this for Prime Minister Modi. The first guest was the leader of the strongest nation on earth, a nation with whom PM Modi envisioned India had to take ties to a new level if it has to tackle China.

The second invitation went out to France – a superpower of the European world. France is often regarded as the 5th most powerful military in the world, & it’s a developed economy as well. France has been an old friend of India. When India conducted the Pokhran-II nuclear test, France was one of the few countries that did not condemn it.

Now, this third invitation goes to an economic & military powerhouse of the Middle East, & an Islamic nation. This is significant not only in economic terms, but also in a great way to tackle the scourge of terrorism.

So, from the Americas to Europe to the Middle East, Prime Minister Modi has his geopolitical preferences sorted out – pick out the strongest in each region & take bilateral ties to a higher level.

Even though this year’s Republic Day hasn’t arrived, seeing this pattern of Prime Minister Modi, the question has already propped up – Who will be the next chief guest? Russia, or could it even be China?