UAE signals a ‘Look East’ policy

Its troops will march in the Republic Day parade as an indicator of its power in the Indian Ocean

Published - January 24, 2017 12:41 am IST - NEW DELHI:

sky is the limit:  IAF aircraft do a flypast during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Monday.

sky is the limit: IAF aircraft do a flypast during a full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Monday.

The United Arab Emirates is likely to highlight its “Look East” policy with its participation in the Republic Day celebrations in India, a prominent Gulf studies expert has said.

James Onley of the Gulf Studies Centre of Qatar University said the presence of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade and participation of a marching contingent of the country’s military in the celebrations would indicate its willingness to play a more active regional role.

Military modernisation

“The UAE will want its troops in the Republic Day parade to be viewed as the indicator of the UAE’s growing power in the Indian Ocean,” Mr. Onley said.

“These troops embody the UAE and GCC’s new ‘Look East’ policy of engaging Asia as a counterbalance to the West.”

The UAE has been carrying out military modernisation in recent years and, according to SIPRI, was one of the five biggest arms importers in the world between 2011 and 2015. Alongside Qatar, the UAE has spread out to several conflict zones in the world in a show of Arab assertion.

Mr. Onley said the participation of the marching contingent in Delhi is part of a regional perspective.

“This presence forms part of a wider GCC effort to exercise regional influence in the vacuum left by the Arab Spring and to counter similar efforts by Iran, which Abu Dhabi regards as a threat,” he said.

Strategic partnership

Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who will arrive in Delhi on Tuesday, is likely to conclude the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two nations, at his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.

The partnership, said Mr. Onley, is a recognition of the unique role of India’s immigrant population in the UAE’s development story.

“There has been continuous Indian presence in the UAE since at least the 18th century. Today, Indians make up 30% of the country’s population — the single largest expatriate community in the UAE,” said Mr. Onley.

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