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Kalam begins on win-win note

Abu Dhabi, Oct. 18: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam says he wishes to build a “win-win” relationship with the United Arab Emirates. He arrived in the UAE capital this evening on his first foreign visit since becoming President.

“I want to know about the core competencies of the host countries (he flies to Sudan and Bulgaria from here). I will share with them our areas of strength. My objective is to strengthen economic cooperation,” Kalam told the media contingent flying with him on his week-long tour.

The President was received by UAE crown prince Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayaed Al Nahyan at the airport. Meaning business, Kalam headed straight to inaugurate the newly-built $25-million Neo Pharma drug manufacturing facility. The Neo Pharma, promoted by rags-to-riches NRI B.R. Shetty, demonstrates the scope for transforming Indo-UAE ties into a “win-win” collaboration and is the first facility of its kind here.

Shetty represents the face of Indian success in the UAE. One of the million-odd Indians working mainly in the services sector here, Shetty went on to become a successful entrepreneur. His success comes at a time when the Emirates has emerged as the second-largest Indian export destination after the US. Bilateral trade has touched the $5 billion mark.

After checking in at Hotel Intercontinental, Kalam met heads of Indian missions in the Gulf. Officials accompanying him said he wished to discuss with them how India could increase trade and economic ties with the region. The officials said Kalam thinks India’s economic reforms have provided Gulf investors a great chance to improve business ties. The Emirates is eyeing investment opportunities in India’s petrochemical sector.

But the President is not limiting himself to trade and economic ties. His scheduled weekend meetings with the UAE political leadership will cover the increasing “strategic cooperation” between the two countries. This collaboration includes mutual cooperation in the fight against terror as well as the illicit trade in drug and narcotics.

Kalam’s visit is the culmination of close cooperation between the two nations over the last two years. The UAE is keen to shed its image of being a safe haven for criminals and this has led to the signing of an extradition treaty with India as well as agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Ties have been on the upswing since deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani visited the UAE two years ago.

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