The decision to have an army contingent from UAE parade alongside the Indian armed forces during the Republic Day celebrations is expected to send a “clear strategic signal” to Pakistan of its growing strategic bonding with the Gulf region.

The decision was taken in line with the visit of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is going to be the Chief Guest of the celebrations.

“Such a spectacle will not only show India’s military prowess, but will also send a clear strategic signal to Pakistan and others that India and Gulf are getting increasingly closer,” said a top official.

Move to backfire?

However, it seems that the Centre has fallen in its own trap now. This is because, while India was looking forward to a spectacle of soldiers from Gulf marching shoulder to shoulder with Indian Army soldier, UAE said it will send a contingent of their military paratroopers, much to the Defence Ministry’s concern.

According to Defence Ministry sources, military paratroopers from UAE cannot be allowed to participate in the event due to security concerns. Thus, it has asked the Ministry of External Affairs to again approach them to only send a contingent of their soldiers.

Nevertheless, the government is resolute on having their armed forces participate during the celebrations.

“New Delhi’s invitation to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi to be the chief guest on the country’s republic day underlines the strategic importance it attaches to the Gulf region. However, if this is indeed an attempt at balancing Pakistan’s influence in the region, the pursuit of such zero-sum policies may not do much good to New Delhi’s interests there in the longer run,” said Happymon Jacob, Associate Professor of Disarmament Studies at the Centre for International Politics, Organisation and Disarmament, JNU.

UAE seeks cooperation

During his visit to India last year in February, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi had categorically talked about enhanced military cooperation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, had spoken about strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region.

“This is obviously done to signal Pakistan and declare to them that India not only has security and strategic interest in the Gulf region but it also wants to maintain them. This will also serve India’s ambitions to portray itself as a global power having aspirations,” said Nandan Unnikrishnan, Vice-President, Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

UAE is also exploring opportunities to cooperate on the production of defence equipment in India.