India has the largest air bubble arrangement with the UAE, says Ambassador Pavan Kapoor
Indian Ambassador to the UAE, Pavan Kapoor, who assumed office in October 2019, spoke exclusively to Khaleej Times on a range of issues such as bilateral ties, growing trade and commerce between the two countries, a sneak peek into the India Pavilion at the upcoming Dubai Expo 2020, upskilling of Indian workers to how the UAE has emerged as one of the leading seats of Arab culture in the region.
This is the last part of a three-part series.
The Indian mission in the UAE played a stellar role in repatriating stranded Indian nationals via Vande Bharat flights last year owing to the contagion.
Ambassador Kapoor said: “Since the onset of the pandemic in the UAE in February 2020, the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Consulate in Dubai faced the challenge of reaching out to a huge number of Indians who were affected by the pandemic and were under distress. To assist the affected Indian nationals in the UAE, the Embassy and the Consulate took several emergency measures to ensure all possible help to the needy Indian nationals.
These included starting emergency hotlines and dedicated 24×7 e-mails, coordination with UAE authorities for quick redressal of the issues such as Covid-19 testing, ambulance service, quarantine facility, and medical treatment as quickly as possible. Our missions in the UAE provided online medical counselling, provided food, and arranged shelter for needy people. Since the start of repatriation flights from UAE to India on 7 May 2020, in less than three months, we have repatriated over 300,000 Indian nationals from the UAE.
The numbers have since crossed over a million and a half but a very large number of people who traveled to India have since also come back, especially after we entered into a bilateral ‘Air Bubble Arrangement’ with the UAE in July 2020, which is still ongoing and supporting the strong people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. We’re operating over 300 flights a week between the two countries, the largest of the 27 air bubble arrangements that India has in place. This successful effort at repatriation and continuing exchange of people would not have been possible without the strong support of the UAE government and their Health and Prevention (MoHAP), Civil Aviation, Interior and Foreign and International Cooperation ministries.”
The diplomat held forth on the upskilling of Indian workers, as many jobs and skillsets appear to become redundant in a post-pandemic world.
“It’s a fact that the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every country in the world and one of the visible manifestations of this impact has been the return of a number of Indians from the (Arabian) Gulf region, including UAE. Our Emirati friends tell us that Indians are among the most preferred expatriate communities in the UAE and are well-known for their hard work, discipline, and law-abiding nature.”
He added that the Covid-19 pandemic has altered the traditional areas of cooperation of global diplomacy while on the other it has thrown light on the areas that have not been explored previously.
“We will prepare our skilled workforce to adapt to the challenges and get ready to move into the new and emerging areas. At the same time, we are hopeful that with the passage of time, the global economic situation will improve and provide opportunities for the return of Indian workers. India and the UAE have an understanding of working together to find ways and means to enable Indian workers and professionals to find employment opportunities in the UAE in a post-Covid scenario. During the visit of the Minister of State for External Affairs, V. Muraleedharan in January, our Consulate in Dubai took the initiative to launch an ‘Upskilling & Training Centre’ for Indian workers in the UAE at the Delhi Public School, Jebel Ali, Dubai. In addition, the Consulate is also working with some state governments in India and local partners in the UAE to develop a model for imparting certain skill sets to Indian nationals that would also enable them to find appropriate jobs in this country,” he said.
The diplomat, a former Indian envoy to Israel, was present in the UAE, when the historic Abraham Accords were signed on September 15, 2020, in Washington D.C. He put India’s gains in perspective following the signing of the pact which gave Israel access to new markets such as the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan.
He said: “India and UAE have a convergence of views on many regional and geopolitical issues and the leadership on both sides maintain close and frequent communication to brief and coordinate with each other on these developments.”
He added: India has consistently supported peace, stability, and development in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood. India welcomed the signing of the Abraham Accords leading to the normalisation of the diplomatic relations between the UAE and Israel. Both Israel and UAE are India’s strategic partners, and the signing of the Abraham Accords provides opportunities for all three countries to work closely in areas of mutual interest. I’m confident that the dynamic Indian entrepreneurs in the UAE will play an important role in exploring business opportunities between the two countries following the signing of the accords.”