In this interview, Ambassador Dr Abdulnasser Jamal Alshaali talks about the cultural ties between India and the UAE, and support extended to filmmakers shooting in the UAE.
Dr. Abdulnasser Jamal Alshaali, the Ambassador of the UAE to India, holds a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University and Master’s in Business Management from Paris Sorbonne University. He also holds a Master’s of Business Administration from Murdoch University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from the American University of Sharjah. He previously held the position of Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs (ETA). Prior to that, Dr. Alshaali was the Director of the ETA Department since March 2019. He was also the Director of Policy Planning Department (PPD) from December 2016 to February 2019, which falls under the purview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International. He was tasked to oversee PPD from January 2021 to January 2022.
In this interview, Ambassador Dr. Abdulnasser Jamal Alshaali talks about the cultural ties between India and the UAE, nature of cultural exchange in recent years, the key areas of focus going forth, support extended to filmmakers shooting in the UAE, among other things.
Q. How do you look at the cultural ties between India and the UAE?
A. India is an important strategic partner for the UAE. India and the UAE enjoy a diversifying and deepening bilateral relationship built on close cultural, economic and people-to-people ties, which has evolved significantly over the past few years. Strong historical ties between India and the UAE make this a special partnership for both the countries. Among many other areas, our historic cultural ties are reflected in the food and architecture found across both nations.
Q. How do you look back at the last few years in terms of cultural exchange between India and the UAE?
A. As the UAE’s tribute to the Indian film industry, the first Bollywood theme park in the world was launched in Dubai in 2016 and relaunched during the pandemic in 2021. Abu Dhabi and Yas Island jointly hosted the 23rd edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards 2023 for the second consecutive year, which was held on February 10-11, 2023. India has long been one of Abu Dhabi’s top inbound source markets for tourists building on strong historic ties. Hosting the IIFA Awards underlines the key strategic position the Indian market occupies for the emirate.
Q. What are the key areas of focus going forth concerning India and UAE?
A. We are focused on enhancing cultural, commercial, and economic opportunities between India and the UAE. It is evident from the MoU signed between the two nations to establish a cultural forum – the Emirati India Cultural Council – which will further strengthen the relationship. The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) will facilitate this. Both countries signed a cultural Agreement in 1975 which provides the basic framework for cooperation in the field of culture. India and the UAE have also signed Executive Programme for Cultural Cooperation (EPCC). Through such a dynamic platform, the two countries are promoting cultural activities for Indian as well as Emirati society.
Q. Given the popularity of Bollywood and Indian stars in the UAE, how can India and the UAE collaborate more often on the filmmaking front?
A. There is an opportunity for the growth of an already strong relationship between both countries through enhancing cross-cultural exchange and ideas. Recently, Louvre Abu Dhabi launched a new exhibition ‘Bollywood Superstars: A Short Story of Indian Cinema’ that showcases the rich history and diversity of the Indian filmmaking industry. This was organised in partnership with Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac and France Muséums. The exhibition is running from 24 January and will continue till 4 June 2023.
Q. What kind of support are you offering to filmmakers who want to shoot in the UAE?
A. Abu Dhabi provides a variety of facilities and personalised support for filmmakers to facilitate smooth shooting schedules. Armed forces supply hardware such as trucks, choppers, and military vehicles, and government agencies help with logistics such as filming permits, road closures, etc. Recently, Director Siddharth Anand’s action thriller ‘Pathaan’ was shot in the UAE, and in seven other countries; locations play a huge role in Bollywood films.
Q. Tell us about your session at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Also, tell us about the key takeaways from your visit to the Jaipur Literature Festival 2023.
A. It was my very first visit to JLF, and I was part of the ‘Present Tense’ session that primarily focused on discussions around G20 and its priority areas for India. Other issues that were discussed ranged from topics like sustainable development to reforms of the multilateral system, and the efficacy of sanctions. I was able to affirm the UAE’s vision for climate leadership ahead of COP28 and highlight the investor-friendly provisions under Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) for Indian businesses to expand into the UAE market. On the significance of enhancing food security in terms of G20, one of the key takeaways was on the open and unrestricted trade. As food security is a major part of this development, we discussed issues such as export tax, and food restrictions that need to be resolved.
Q. What are your thoughts on diplomacy at large in the context of India and the UAE?
A. India is an important strategic partner for the UAE and our ties have evolved significantly over the past few years. The CEPA has the potential to increase non-oil trade between India and the UAE to $100 billion in the next five years.
This will strengthen and develop industries in both nations through investments, technology transfer, and the deployment of key technologies.
Food security and energy are common areas that both countries will look to reinforce and expand upon. Both countries engage closely in multilateral groupings such as the I2U2 (along with the US and Israel) to tackle some of the greatest global challenges, with particular focus on joint investments and new initiatives in food security water, energy, transportation, space, and health. Under the aegis of this partnership, the UAE will invest US$2 billion to develop integrated food parks across India incorporating the latest climate technologies, to tackle food insecurity in South Asia and the Middle East.