The UAE contingent march past during the full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade, at Rajpath in New Delhi on Monday.
Abu Dhabi: When over a 200-member contingent of the UAE Air Force marches on Indian Republic Day on Thursday, it will symbolise the UAE’s trust in India and “our global image as a peace-loving nation,” a former defence official told Gulf News on Monday.
“The march will reflect the UAE’s love towards India as way of giving back [for what India gave to the UAE over the years]. It tells how much we love this country, how much we trust them and how much we value them,” said the former Chief of the UAE Naval Forces, Rear Admiral (Retd) Ahmad Mohammad Al Sabab Al Tunaiji.
“India’s help before and after the unification of the Emirates was notable as Indians helped build this nation with their labour force, professionals, businessmen and traders …” said Al Tunaiji who retired in 2010 after 35-year long service with the UAE Naval Forces.
A 200-member strong contingent of UAE soldiers will participate in the Indian Republic Day Parade on January 26 in New Delhi.
This will be only the second time since 1950 that a foreign military contingent will march with Indian troops.
He said the UAE forces’ distinction as the first Arab soldiers to march on Indian Republic Day will also enhance the UAE’s global image as a peace-loving country. “The Indian Republic Day parade is a ceremonial event and the UAE’s participation gives a message to all that we want to promote peace.”
This ceremonial presence will remind people about the UAE forces’ participation in peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Kosovo and many other strife-torn regions. “Our intervention in Yemen is to establish peace and reinstate the legitimate government there,” he pointed out.
The march also is an indication of the growing defence ties between the two nations. Al Tunaiji said working with one of the biggest navies in the world [India’s] will tremendously help the UAE Navy. “India’s big naval forces have rich history, experience and capabilities.”
The cooperation in defence, especially between navies, has always been active, specifically the two countries as the littoral states of the Indian Ocean. The Indian Navy conducted the first edition of the ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium’ (IONS), an initiative to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean, in Delhi in 2008. The UAE Navy organised the second edition of IONS in Abu Dhabi in 2010, the former naval chief said.
He had visited India twice in his official capacity and mutual visits for training, official talks, and naval ship visits from India was common, he said.
Al Tunaiji, 60, said his family in Ras Al Khaimah had links with India many years back. “My father was a sailor who used to travel to Calicut [now Kozhikode] in Kerala for trade. I was a little boy then. I remember that he [father] had told me about his trips to Calicut to bring spices, clothes, food and many other things.” That link vanished when he was growing up as the situation changed when oil was discovered in the Gulf.
Ras Al Khaimah as a maritime power had strong relations with India. Ras Al Khaimah’s navy had successfully resisted the incursions by the British East India Company, at least twice in the past, he said.
Al Tunaiji had left Ras Al Khaimah for Abu Dhabi at the age of 16. He went to Syria for studies and joined the UAE Navy after returning. “Then, I was trained in Pakistan Naval Academy where I got award for the best cadet.”