Ties that bind: India and the UAE

Indian ministry data for the 2010-2011 fiscal year shows that the UAE-India trade has reached $67bn
Indian ministry data for the 2010-2011 fiscal year shows that the UAE-India trade has reached $67bn
By Ed Attwood
Sat 18 Feb 2012 08:27 PM

Do you know who India’s biggest trading partner is? It’s not the US. It’s not China. It’s not Singapore, Indonesia, Germany or the UK. Even the EU as a whole isn’t India’s biggest trading partner.

In fact, the UAE takes that title, according to India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The ministry’s data for the 2010-2011 fiscal year shows that exports and imports between the two countries totalled $67bn. And it’s not all one-way traffic either, with exports amounting to just over $34bn and imports coming in at just under $33bn.

From the macroeconomic perspective, it seems like the UAE has tied its colours to the right mast. Whether India’s GDP growth will outstrip that posted by its Asian powerhouse rival, China, in 2012 is a moot point, but its prospects are far greater than elsewhere on the planet.

While the US’s share of global trade remains exactly the same as it was two decades ago — at around 25 percent — so-called emerging markets like India have taken up the slack left by the slump in European trade.

No wonder, then, that there were a lot of smiling faces at our first Indian CEO Awards, which were held at the Armani Hotel last week. Fully half of Dubai’s companies are owned by Indians, another astonishing figure. Among the winners were EMKE Group founder Yusuffali MA — now one of the richest Indians in the world — who picked up the inaugural Lifetime Achievement award.

Other top executives who won gongs at the event included Standard Chartered’s V Shankar — the most senior member of the banking community to be based in the Middle East — the Regal Group’s Vasu Shroff, and the founder of the ITL-Cosmos Group, Ram Buxani.

Many of our winners are men (and women) who came to Dubai with nothing, and helped build the emirate into what it is today.

But there can be little doubt that this is a partnership that has benefited both countries. In his speech at the awards ceremony, India’s consul general to Dubai, Sanjay Verma referred to a recent study by WealthInsight, which points out that Dubai hosts more billionaires than any other city in the Middle East.

Dubai placed eighteenth on the global list, beating out Saudi heavyweights Riyadh and Jeddah. Verma pointed out that of the fourteen billionaires currently resident in the city, a considerable number of these were Indian, and had made their fortune here.

As Arabian Business went to press, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Dubai’s Supreme Fiscal Committee, was announcing that Dubai’s GDP growth could reach 4.5 percent in 2012.

Much of that growth will be dependent on two issues; the continued growth of Indian-owned companies already flourishing in Dubai, and rising bilateral trade between the two countries. In addition, last year, tourists from India overtook Britons as Dubai’s top source of visitors — and numbers are only set to grow. The UN World Tourism Organisation projects that there will be 50 million Indians looking to holiday overseas every year from 2020.

If the UAE can attract just a tenth of that figure — which should be relatively easy to achieve — then the prospects look strong indeed.

Ed Attwood is the Deputy Editor of Arabian Business.

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