Former UAE envoy recalls his days in New Delhi

Abu Dhabi: A former UAE Ambassador to India, who served in New Delhi for 15 years, said his own experience of owning one of the few satellite dishes in New Delhi in the late 1980s would tell India’s story of rapid transformation.

Many ambassadors in New Delhi then used to spend their evening to watch foreign TV channels at his home as they did not have other option, Ahmad Abdullah Al Musalli said at a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA), the UAE’s leading international relations and diplomatic institution.

From such a situation to India’s growth in industry, technology, space and many other sectors in the past few decades were remarkable, he said in the presence of Navdeep Singh Suri, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE.

The ‘so-called’ political instability witnessed sometimes in past few decades never affected India’s democracy, Al Musalli said. During his 15 years of tenure, he saw four presidents and seven prime ministers. There were repeated national elections in a few years in 1990s but nothing affected India’s stability, the former envoy said.

He said 15 years were not enough to know about a vast country like India with 22 official languages and numerous cultures. “When you visit different states, you feel each state is a country with a unique language, cuisine and culture,” Al Musalli said who served from 1987 to 2001.

 When you visit different states [in India], you feel each state is a country with a unique language, cuisine and culture.”

 – Ahmad Abdullah Al Musalli | Former UAE Ambassador to India 

The discussion on the close symbolic, substantive and strategic ties between the UAE and India was held ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s imminent second visit to the UAE next week for the World Government Summit, widely seen as evidence of an even closer relationship in UAE-India relations in the future.

The Indian Ambassador said India’s diversity and integration of its Muslim minority have always attracted interest of others. He said many in the UAE curiously asked why India’s millions of Muslims created only a few Daesh sympathisers. Such experiences of anti-radicalisation can be shared with the UAE and others, Suri said.

Indian can also learn from the UAE’s efforts in this regard.

In security, counterterrorism and defence, the UAE- India relations in the past 2.5 years have grown tremendously. “This was unimaginable a decade ago,” the envoy said.

Despite historically excellent people-to-people and trade relations, there was a complacency in government-to-government relations. “We took our relations for granted,” Suri said.

Therefore, many opportunities were lost during the past few decades, but now the two governments are on a fast track mode to compensate the lost time, the ambassador said.

Modi’s visit will open certain new areas of cooperation in new sectors, he said.

Dr N. Janardhan, Senior Research Fellow in the Gulf-Asia Programme at EDA, was the moderator.

Dr Rahul Sagar, Global Network Associate Professor of Political Science at New York University Abu Dhabi also participated in the discussions.


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