Bilateral Economic & Commercial Relations
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  • Bilateral Economic & Commercial Relations

India and UAE have shared trade links through the centuries. The trade, which was dominated by traditional items such as dates, pearl and fishes, underwent a sharp change after the discovery of oil in UAE (oil exports begun from Abu Dhabi in 1962).  With the emergence of UAE as a unified entity in 1971, exports from India started growing gradually over the years. The real impetus, however, started after Dubai positioned itself as a regional trading hub by early 1990s and about the same time, the economic liberalization process started in India.

Growing India-UAE economic and commercial relations contribute to the stability and strength of a rapidly diversifying and deepening bilateral relationship between the two countries. Both sides are striving to further strengthen these ties for mutual benefits. India-UAE trade, valued at US$ 180 million per annum in the 1970s, is today around US$50 billion making UAE, India's third largest trading partner for the year 2017-18 after China and US.  Moreover, UAE is the second largest export destination of India (after US) with an amount of over US$ 28 billion for the year 2017-18.  For UAE, India is the second largest trading partner for the year 2017 with an amount of around US$ 35 billion (non-oil trade).  During the visit of Prime Minister in August 2015 to UAE, the two sides agreed to further expand bilateral trade by 60 percent in the next five years.

India's Major Exports and Imports to the UAE:

India's exports to the UAE are well diversified with a large basket. India's major export items to the UAE are: Petroleum Products, Precious Metals, Stones, Gems & Jewellery, Minerals, Food Items (Cereals, Sugar, Fruits & Vegetables, Tea, Meat, and Seafood), Textiles (Garments, Apparel, Synthetic fibre, Cotton, Yarn) and Engineering & Machinery Products and Chemicals. India's major import items from the UAE are:  Petroleum and Petroleum Products, Precious Metals, Stones, Gems & Jewellery, Minerals, Chemicals, Wood & Wood Products.   India also imported 14.29 MMT (US$ 6,122.20 Million) of crude oil from UAE in 2017-18.


There is an estimated US$10-11 billion UAE investment in India of which around US$5.33 billion (Dec. 2017) is in the form of foreign direct investment, while the remaining is portfolio investment. UAE is the tenth biggest investor in India in terms of FDI. UAE's investments in India are concentrated mainly in five sectors: Services Sector (9.44%), Power (8.97%), Construction Development: Townships, Housing, Built-Up Infrastructure and Construction-Development Projects (8.81%), Air Transport (Including Air Freight) (7.42%), Hotel & Tourism (7.29%). 
During the visit of Prime Minister in August 2015 to UAE, it is decided to establish UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, with the aim of reaching a target of USD 75 billion to support investment in India's plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.   During the successive VVIP visit, the leaders of both the countries reviewed the progress in realizing the USD 75 billion target for UAE investments in India.

  • UAE investments in India

There are a number of joint ventures and investments undertaken by UAE companies in India. EMAAR, a real estate company of Dubai Government, is active in the real estate sector having already set up a major township, an international convention centre and a golf course in Hyderabad.  EMAAR group intends to invest in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat in food processing sector creating a food-corridor in the country.

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), India’s first sovereign wealth fund, signed a US$1 billion investment agreement with a wholly owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) on 16.10.17, to invest in much-needed energy, transportation and other infrastructure-related sectors in India. ADIA is investing $1 billion in affordable and mid-income housing projects in India's leading cities. ADIA is among the most active foreign investors in India and has deployed its funds in real estate, private equity and backed two of the largest renewable energy companies of India, investing over $400 million in ReNew Power and Greenko.

The NIIF and Dubai-based ports operator DP World Pvt. Ltd, announced the creation of an investment platform to invest up to $3 billion in ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India. This is the first investment platform from NIIF and will see investment up to $3 billion of equity to acquire assets and develop projects in these sectors.

Dubai Ports World (DP World) in February 2016 unveiled plans to invest more than US$1 billion in India to expand its container terminals business. The Group has already invested capital of $1.2bn and is currently the only foreign operator with six port concessions in India with approximately 30% market share.

Saudi Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) signed a Framework Agreement to jointly develop the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (RRPCL), a 1.2 million barrels per day integrated mega refinery and petrochemicals complex. It is a strategic partnership and co-investment in the development of a new US $44 billion mega refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ratnagiri.  The agreement defines the principles of the joint strategic cooperation between Saudi Aramco and ADNOC to jointly build, own and operate the complex in collaboration with a consortium of Indian national oil companies currently consisting of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOCl), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL), and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (HPCL). Saudi Aramco and ADNOC will jointly own 50% of the new joint venture Company RRPCL, with the remaining 50% owned by the Indian Consortium.

Abu Dhabi-based retail giant, Lulu Group, has launched an AED1.7 billion ($460 million) mixed use project in Andhra Pradesh. Through a public private partnership, the group's project will comprise a 7,000-capacity convention centre, shopping mall and a luxury hotel in Visakhapatnam, and will be one of the largest project of its kind in the state.
Dubai Holdings are lead partners in Kochi Smart City.

Abu Dhabi's National Petroleum Construction Company(NPCC), has won a major engineering and construction contract to build offshore platforms from India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation(ONGC). NPCC will build the WO-16 cluster and SB-14 wellhead platforms project at the offshore Mumbai High Field, valued at Dh550 million.

Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) signed a MoU for a JV with Govt. of A.P for setting up a one million tonne per annum Alumina plant and a 250,000 tonne aluminium smelter. RAKIA  has already commissioned the RAK ceramics factory located at Kakinada in AP. UAE tile manufacturer, RAK Ceramics India, has set up a tile plant in Ahmedabad, at an investment of $150 million.

UAE-based KEF Holdings, a multinational firm specialising in offsite construction technology, has announced the launch of operations in India with a planned investment of AED 900 million.

India’s largest shopping mall, promoted by Abu Dhabi-based EMKE Group, was unveiled in Kochi, Kerala on 10th March 2013.  They are also developing a second LuLu shopping mall, hotel and international convention centre in Kerala's capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. Spread over 19 acres, this will be the second biggest shopping mall in India after the LuLu mall in Kochi.

Greenko Energy Holdings, one of India's leading renewable energy firm in the month of June 2016 stated that it has secured $150 million new funds from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).
UAE-based businessman Mr. B.R. Shetty’s global remittance firm UAE Exchange announced that it has reached a deal to acquire the online remittance business “Remit2India” from Time of Money, India. Remit2India is an online brand with more than 500,000 customers, mainly Indian expatriates, in the US, Canada and Australia.

National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) from Abu Dhabi has signed a $316 million contract for the EPC of new LNG terminal in Gujarat. This capital development program will include massive dredging and marine infrastructure works. NMDC’s role in the Gujarat LNG scheme will also involve land reclamation activities, construction of breakwaters, jetties and associated facilities. This project award marks a new milestone for NMDC in its strategic expansion plans to expand its operational footprint into Asia.

During the inaugural session of the India Integrated Transport and Logistics Summit 2017 on 4th May 2017 at New Delhi,  Mr. Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World- leading global operator of marine and inland terminals, stated that it will invest USD 1 billion more in India to tap into the opportunities the country offers in infrastructure space. This will be in addition to its existing over USD 1 billion investment in India.

(b)       Indian investments in UAE:

Though no official figures are available, investments by Indian companies in UAE would be in excess of US$85 billion.  Many Indian companies have set up manufacturing units either as joint ventures or in Special Economic Zones for cement, building materials, textiles, engineering products, consumer electronics etc. Many Indian companies including Taj Group of Hotels have also invested in the tourism, hospitality, catering, health, retail and education sectors. Hinduja Group has set up manufacturing units for Ashok Leyland vehicles in Ras-al-Khaimah.

The EMKE Group under the banner 'Lulu' set up by an Indian national dominates the retail/departmental sectors in UAE. Al-Faraa group is a booming construction-sector company. Indian cement manufacturer JK Cement is investing US$14.97 mn to set up a white cement plant with a capacity to produce 0.6 million tones per year(mtpy), in Fujairah Free Trade Zone.  Indian companies like Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, Dabur etc. operate out of the business parks of Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority. Zuari Agro Chemicals and Tata Power are also setting up units in Ras Al Khaimah ($800 mn fertilizer plant and $250mn sugar plant). India's Essar Steel Processing and Distribution (ESPD), part of Essar Steel, has a service centre facility in Dubai (capacity: 250,000 tonnes) to cater to the needs of customers in Middle East and neighboring region.
The region has traditionally been one of Apollo Tyres's strongest export markets, accounting for about 30% of export revenues. The company has opened an office in Dubai and its distribution network in the Middle East is spanning 14 countries and 23 business partners.  India's Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS) and UAE-based Prime Terminal have jointly pumped in Dh477 million ($130 million) in an oil storage terminal at Fujairah. IL&FS Prime Terminals, a joint venture formed between IL&FS Maritime Infrastructure Company Limited (IMICL) and PTF, reached an agreement on the first phase of the 632,678 cubic metres project. This will help boost the fuel storage capacity to increase from 5.08 million cubic metres to 7.95 million cubic metres.

Indian television major Zee Entertainment has invested in the satellite television network in the Middle East, with Dubai as its base. It is already running a special Arabic channel Zee Aflam devoted to bollywood entertainment.  In September 2012, Zee announced a $100 million investment in Zee Alwan - Dubai, the second Arabic channel by Asia's largest television provider.

Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) Pilani in India opened its international campus in Dubai on December 2007 -  BITS Pilani, Dubai.  It is the one of the dedicated engineering institutions in the region and has the largest campus spread across a 15-acre plot in Dubai International Academic City with an excellent academically conducive infrastructure and highly qualified faculty. Other Educational Institutions set up by Indian entities are Manipal University, Mahatma Gandhi University, Pune University, S P Jain School of Global Management etc.
Major Indian companies such as L&T, ESSAR, Dodsal, Punj Lloyd, ElL etc. have been able to obtain significant number of contracts in the UAE.  L& T and its Oman-based subsidiary have secured major contracts in water supply projects, construction, oil, electric transmission and other sectors. In June 2011, India-based PCM Strescon Overseas Ventures Ltd (Siliguri, West Bengal) signed a contract worth US$40 million with Etihad Rail for design & manufacture of railway sleepers as well as production of sleeper manufacturing facility for Phase I of the railway network of 266 km route linking Shah, Habshan and Ruwais in the Abu Dhabi western region.  Etihad Rail is one of the ongoing project in Abu Dhabi.

There are over 1000 direct flights operating every week between various destinations in India and UAE, serviced by Air India/Air India Express, Jet Airways, Spicejet, Indigo, Emirates, Etihad, Flydubai and Air Arabia.

Institutional Arrangements:

A Joint Commission mechanism at the level of Foreign Ministers has held eleven sessions so far, to discuss the entire gamut of bilateral relations.  His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of United Arab Emirates led a delegation of senior officials and captains of leading UAE business houses to India for the 11th session of the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting for Technical and Economic Cooperation, held on 02-03 September, 2015, in New Delhi.
A Joint Business Council consisting of Federation of UAE Chambers of Commerce & Industry and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) has been set up.   Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has signed a strategic agreement with the Khalifa Industrial Zone of Abu Dhabi (KIZAD) in October 2011 at Mumbai to support the Indian businesses investing in the new Industrial Zone.
Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) was signed between India and UAE in April 1992.
A Customs Cooperation Agreement was signed on 1st April 2012.
India-UAE Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) was signed on December 12, 2013 at New Delhi. Further to this, renegotiation of the terms of this agreement and endeavor to enter into a revised / new agreement between UAE and India (Bilateral Investment Treaty – BIT) the 1st round of negotiation was held in Abu Dhabi on 25-27 September 2017. The 2nd round of BIT negotiation is scheduled to be held in New Delhi on 10-12 December 2018.

To further attract investments, a High Level Task Force was formed in May 2012 with Hon’ble CITM and His Highness Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,  Chairman of Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi and Managing Director, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority as Co-Chairs.  This followed the visit Sheikh Hamed to India in January 2012 at CITM’s invitation when he had interactions with various Cabinet Ministers, trade and industrial bodies and financial institutions and regulatory authorities.

The 1st meeting of the India-UAE High Level Task Force on Investments (HLTFI) was held on 18/02/2013 at Abu Dhabi, hon’ble CITM led Indian delegation.  An agreement was reached between the two countries on the format and structure of future discussions, and the meeting decided to establish sub-committees in areas such as infrastructure, energy, investment and trade, manufacturing and technology, aviation and transport for investment purposes. Sheikh Hamed announced an initial allocation of USD2 billion for investments in infrastructure projects in India and support for the establishment of a strategic oil reserve in India. CITM also highlighted India’s desire to participate in the oil and gas sector of UAE. 

The 2nd meeting of HLTFI held on 03.03.2014 at Mumbai, saw wide-ranging discussions on priority sectors of engagement for channeling investments between the two countries. H.H. Shaikh Hamed led the UAE delegation and co-chaired the HLTFI meeting with Sh. Anand Sharma, Hon’ble Minister for Commerce and Industry.

Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State of Commerce and Industry (Independent Charge) visited UAE for the 3rd meeting of HLTFI on 12-13 October 2015. During this meeting both sides agreed to explore ways to expand the participation of the UAE's investment institutions in appropriate infrastructure projects in India, especially in railways, ports, roads and airports, in multi investment platforms and in a manner consistent with the established investment criteria and standards of these institutions. Both sides also affirmed the commitment to realize their respective countries' vision of elevating their relationship to a strong and comprehensive strategic partnership. They acknowledged the potential to further enhance and expand bilateral investment relationship by collaborating closely to identify bottlenecks to trade, new areas of trade and cooperation and methods of trade promotion, with the target of increasing trade by 60% over the next five years.

H.H. Sheikh Hamed and Mrs. Nirmala Sitharaman, Hon’ble Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, co-chaired the 4th  meeting of HLTFI held on February 2-3, 2016 in New Delhi.  The discussions focused on enhancing bilateral investment relations and further exploring ways of increasing trade between the two countries. 
The 5th meeting of HLTFI held in Abu Dhabi on 14th Jan. 2018. The meeting was co-chaired by Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, and Suresh Prabhu, the Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry. Both sides Discussions focused on opportunities for cooperation and investment in the railways and road sectors of both countries. Both sides also discussed a number of potential investment projects in India in the transport, real estate and energy sectors.

The 6th meeting of HLTFI was held in Mumbai on 15th October 2018 to review the progress being made in addressing the agreed actions of the previous meeting held in Abu Dhabi in January 2018 and to elaborate  a number of new key issues of mutual importance. The meeting was co-chaired by H.H. Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince’s Court, and H.E. Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce and Industry and Civil Aviation, Government of India. The two sides deliberated on opportunities for cooperation and investment in the both countries. Both sides also discussed in specific detail a number of potential investment projects in India, in the Highways sector; Infrastructure Corridor projects; Sagar Mala projects and New Greenfield Airports. The meeting also deliberated on India-UAE Agro exports potential and Projects in Food Processing Sector. To facilitate investments and resolve issues relating to UAE Investments in India, a special UAE desk ‘UAE PLUS’ shall be established in Invest India, the National Investment Promotion Agency of India. Also establish a Fast Track Mechanism at the level of Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Government of India and Ambassador of UAE to India to continuously monitor and resolve issues.

Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

On the multilateral framework, India and GCC have signed a Framework Agreement on Economic Cooperation on 25th August 2004 acknowledging the growing importance of economic and commercial relations between India and GCC countries and to facilitate entering into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The first round of negotiations on FTA took place at Riyadh on 21-22 March 2006.  The progress has been slow since the process of integration within the GCC has been slow and there are concerns in India about providing free access to petroleum products from GCC.

NRI Remittances:

The annual remittances made by the large Indian community in UAE (estimated to be around 3.3 million) amount to over US$ 13.8 billion (Year 2017, Source : World Bank).  They had actively invested in the past in the various bonds floated by India such as Resurgent India Bonds and the India Millennium Bonds.


Bank of Baroda which is the only Indian bank holding a license from the UAE authorities for conducting full fledged banking operations, has been in operation in UAE since 1974.   BOB has one zonal office, six branches and four Customer Service Centers (CSCs) across UAE.  Similarly, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank has two branches in India and Mashreq Bank one. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) launched its banking operations in India on 2nd November 2015. Canara Bank and State Bank of India manage exchange centers in UAE in collaboration with local money exchange houses. Other Indian Banks with representative offices in the UAE include Bank of India, HDFC Bank Limited, ICICI Bank Limited, Punjab National Bank, Union Bank of India, Federal Bank, Andhra Bank, Corporation Bank, Axis Bank, Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Indusind Bank Ltd. etc. 
The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 15/6/2011 at Mumbai.  Indian banks have a significant, and growing, presence in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), so this enhancement of information sharing and assistance between the RBI and the DFSA is a critical step to ensuring confidence in each of our regulatory regimes.

Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of UAE signed an MoU aimed at supervisory cooperation and exchange of information in Abu Dhabi on 19th October 2015.  The MoU puts in place a mechanism to cooperate in supervision of banks and other financial institutions operating in both jurisdictions and exchange of supervisory information, in line with local laws of each jurisdiction and in accordance with the principles of Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.