New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today broke protocol by personally receiving Abu Dhabi's crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan with a warm embrace, as the latter alighted from the aircraft at the Palam Technical Area.
The crown prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising cabinet ministers, senior officials and business leaders.
General Sheikh Mohamed is on a three-day visit to India.
“A special welcome for a special friend. PM @narendramodi personally receives HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” the Prime Minister's Office tweeted.
A slew of agreements, including on defence equipment manufacturing and civil nuclear cooperation, are likely to be signed between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the crown prince's visit.
After the India-UAE relationship was elevated to comprehensive strategic partnership during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UAE in August last year, the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years, there is focus on new areas of cooperation like defence production in India, security, counter-terrorism, in nuclear and space sector, in energy sector, according to Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry.
“A number of new agreements and MoUs (memorandums of understanding) are proposed to be signed during the visit of the crown prince to expand the areas of our cooperation,” Wadhwa said during a media briefing here on Wednesday ahead of the crown prince's arrival.
“This list is still being updated. I cannot give the number right now but as we speak the negotiations are still going on."
The welfare of the expatriate Indians in the United Arab Emirates, numbering around 2.6 million, is also likely to come up for discussion, he said.
After Saudi Arabia, the UAE hosts the highest number of Indians in the Gulf, 60 percent of whom are blue collar workers.
This is the second highest level visit to India from the Gulf region after the visit of the emir of Qatar in March 2015.
The region, which hosts seven million expatriate Indians and is an important source of remittances, has a strong bearing on India's security and stability in its neighbourhood.
The UAE is the third largest trading partner of India after the US and China.
It is also the sixth largest source of India's crude oil imports.
This is the third visit to India by Sheikh Mohamed and the first in his capacity as crown prince.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is scheduled to call on him later today.
On Thursday, Sheikh Mohamed will be accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan following which he will lay a wreath at Rajghat.
He will have a tete-a-tete with Prime Minister Narendra Modi after which President Pranab Mukherjee will host him for a private lunch.
Delegation-level discussions will be held here between Modi and Sheikh Mohamed on Thursday evening and then the agreements will be signed.
On Friday, Sheikh Mohamed will leave for Mumbai where he will visit the Bombay Stock Exchange and meet Indian business leaders.
(With IANS inputs)