Why Did Modi Decide to Visit UAE in Haste?

A joke began to circulate in the social media soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced his trip to the United Arab Emirates recently.

“Will Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy take a leaf out of his Tamil Nadu counterpart Jayalalithaa’s book and welcome Modi at Dubai airport?”

It intends to take a dig at Keralites, the largest expatriate Indian community in the UAE, though the questioner knows Chandy has no business to do in the UAE, except visiting the Gulf country frequently.

Jokes apart, Modi’s visit signals a milestone in India’s diplomatic relations with the UAE. For the record, late Indira Gandhi was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit the country in 1981.

Modi is expected to meet Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Dubai Ruler and Prime Minister of UAE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum during the two-day visit on August 16 and 17.

However, Modi’s sudden travel plan has caught many by surprise. It seems that even the top government officials were not aware of it till last Wednesday.

A former diplomat has already come on record and said Modi’s visit without sufficient advance notice could cause protocol difficulties. “Visits to the UAE require coordination between all the different Emirates and their Rulers or Emirates which makes it more complicated,” former Indian Ambassador to UAE, K.C. Singh, was quoted as saying in The Hindu newspaper.

Then what prompted Modi to announce this trip in haste?

Here are the possibilities.

A serious attempt to woo the Gulf country and give finishing touches to several bilateral agreements that were to have been signed during Manmohan Singh’s term. According to official data, UAE is the second largest export destination of India with exports of over $30 billion in 2013-14.

A balancing act ahead of his planned visit to Israel. India feels that engagement with Israel may invite the wrath of the Arab countries and will affect bilateral relationship.

A ploy to appease the expatriates in the Gulf region. It is a major possibility. Known for theatrics, Modi will try to win over the expatriates when he addresses them at the Dubai Cricket Stadium. Moreover, an External Affairs spokesman has already said that Indian community will be the prime focus of the visit.

What do you think about Modi’s visit to UAE in haste?

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