NEW DELHI, India Scheduled visit of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to India on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be the Chief Guest of Republic Day signals the importance that India accords to strengthening ties with the United Arab Emirates.

Prince Mohammad is to occupy a position that in the last three years were occupied by French President Francois Hollande, American President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe respectively to be the first non-head of state or government to adore the Chief Guest position since last 50 years.

The visit is latest in a number of exchange of high level visits since the first visit of UAE President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in 1975 kicking off a long mutually beneficial diplomatic ties which was reciprocated in 1981 with a state visit by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to the Gulf nation.

The current visit is expected to deepen the existing bilateral cooperation and further widen it into new avenues.

Much awaited Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, the scope and areas under such a partnership was deliberated upon by high level delegations headed by Minister of State at the Indian External Affairs M.J. Akbar and his UAE counterpart Dr Anwar Gargash.

According to the statement issued after Friday's meeting, it is clear that the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership would cover areas of energy security, renewable energy, defence and security, electronics, information technology and space.

Among the many areas of cooperation on table, India is poised to provide support to the UAE in developing the air defence system in addition to defence equipment refurbishing.

Indian defense sources also see possibilities that the talks to provide offshore patrol vehicles to the UAE may fructify.

The UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, which was created during Modi's UAE visit in August 2015 is also expected to see exchange of detailed plans being worked out to meet USD 75 billion target during the visit.

In the energy sector, major breakthrough is expected as talks to use India's strategic crude oil storage facilities built at Mangaluru and Padur in the south Indian state of Karnataka are in an advanced stage and would present a win-win situation for both the countries.

The talks which gained momentum during the Prime Minister Modi's visit to the UAE and the follow up talks by Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan with UAE's Energy Minister Suhail Mohammed Al Mazrouei may be finalized during the Crown Prince's visit enabling the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) to store crude oil.

This will give an advantage to the ADNOC as it will enable the company to safeguard itself from global price shocks and supply disruptions in addition to giving an edge in the coming underground strategic crude oil storage facilities at Mangaluru and Padur in Karnataka.

The proposed arrangement would also give UAE better access to the markets of India which meets 80 percent of its crude oil requirements through import as well as other energy hungry South East and East Asian countries.

It will enable UAE to lessen the export cost as the distance travelled would be drastically cut short.

Though there are speculations at various Indian corners that the UAE may come closer to India in the defence and security fields, given the current geopolitical realities, such a shift is farfetched.

However, UAE Ambassador to India Ahmed Al Banna told Press Trust of India in an interview that his country is in support of the recent Indian surgical strikes inside the territories in the disputed Kashmir region under the control of Pakistan.

It is expected that 10 to 16 agreements are to be signed during Prince Sheikh Mohamed's three-day stay in India, the most important being the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership deal.

The Indian Cabinet earlier this month cleared for signing five Memorandums of Understanding in various sectors including one in road transport to increase investment in infrastructure development and enhance logistics efficiency.

Another MoU in the maritime transport was also cleared by the Indian Cabinet for signing which would "pave the way for facilitation and promotion of maritime transport, simplification of customs and other formalities."

Three other MoUs in the maritime training, agriculture and small and medium enterprises and innovation would also be signed during the high profile visit.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK