The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Armed Forces His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was the chief guest at the country's 68th Republic Day celebrations in 2017. This was also the first time that a leader of UAE was honoured with the invitation of being the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
However, what was considered as an unprecedented gesture was the parade at the majestic “Rajpath”, was led by a contingent of 179 UAE soldiers.
India-UAE ties are an exemplar for the changing Indian approach towards the wider region. In recent years, the Modi Government has often used ceremonies to send out important signals on the foreign policy front by inviting its key partners. The UAE Prince was accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Ministers, senior officials and captains of industry, the ministry. This was UAE Prince’s second visit to India since his visit in February, 2016.
The Modi government has also invested significant diplomatic capital towards strengthening its ties with the UAE. The UAE is considered as India’s gateway to West Asia in general, and the Gulf region in particular, the Gulf nation is also among the top investors in India in terms of foreign direct investments and was the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India in 2015-16. The UAE also committed $75 billion to support investment in India's plans for rapid expansion of next-generation infrastructure, especially in railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors and parks.
Till date, 58 foreign heads of states have attended India's Republic Day celebrations as guests of honour. Previous instances of dignitaries from the Gulf region invited as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations include Iranian president Mohammed Khatami in 2003. The French President Francoise Hollande was the guest of honour last year.