NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
UAE - India to expand ties
NEW DELHI /UAE— March 22: India has affirmed that its bilateral ties with the UAE will be further strengthened with the visit to the country by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
New Delhi is all geared up to give Shaikh Mohammed a grand red carpet welcome.
The two countries are set to sign seven key agreements in the areas of political and economic cooperation.
Top officials have said that while Abu Dhabi was looking to explore investment opportunities in a booming India, New Delhi is looking for a significant Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flowing in from the UAE.
The UAE is likely to sign an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), India’s regulator of securities market, and work on various investment modules, including FDIs.
Though Shaikh Mohammed's visit is being seen as part of the larger GCC-India alliance, it is also in line with India’s image as a leading political and economic player in the region.
Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee told Khaleej Times yesterday that "the Indo-UAE relationship had been reinforced by the long-standing people-to-people and commercial contacts."
The minister noted that this relationship was based on "shared traditions, historical contacts and cultural values."
Mukherjee added: "UAE has been one of our key allies."
Talking to Khaleej Times, Minister for Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath said the two sides were looking forward to further expansion of their already robust trade ties. "The economic and commercial association of India and the UAE contributes to the permanence of their bilateral relations," he said.
India is the sixth largest exporter to the UAE after Japan, the US, Germany, China and the UK. Also, UAE is the second largest destination for India's exports after the US. Indo-UAE trade, valued at $180 million per annum in the 1970s, now stands at over $12.5 billion.
An Indo-UAE Joint Commission for Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation was set up as early as in January 1975. Besides, a Joint Business Council Agreement was also signed on February 19, 2004 between the UAE Chambers of Commerce & Industry, and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.
Besides economic pacts, the two sides are also set to sign some key political agreements during the coming visit of Shaikh Mohammed.
The late President, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, had visited India in January 1975, and then again in April 1992. A high-level delegation led by Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces had paid an official visit to India in June, 2004.
Ever since the diplomatic ties were established between the two countries in June 1973, India and the UAE have signed some key bilateral agreements, including the extradition treaty, mutual legal assistance treaty in criminal matters and mutual legal assistance treaty in civil matters.
The two countries have also signed an agreement on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters, and a cultural agreement that was signed on January 3, 1975.
The other three significant agreements signed between the two countries are:
Agreement to Combat Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Signed on January 6, 1994).
Civil Aviation Agreement (Signed on March 1989).
Channel Carriage Agreement (Signed on September 24, 2000).
Mohammed visit to herald new era of UAE-India relationship
ABU DHABI — March 22: The first state visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to India is likely to herald a new chapter in India-UAE relations, CM Bhandari, Ambassador of India to the UAE, said yesterday.
“I am confident that Shaikh Mohammed’s first state visit to India will provide a unique opportunity to inform its public about the UAE and our long-standing bonds with Emiratis,” he said.
Shaikh Mohammed will pay an official visit to India starting on Sunday upon an invitation from Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. He will be accompanied by seven of his Cabinet colleagues in addition to a large business and media delegation, which clearly demonstrates the multi-faceted partnership the two countries are pursuing, the Ambassador told a Press conference at the Indian Embassy.
Shaikh Mohammed last visited Delhi and Mumbai in 1974 as the Defence Minister of the UAE accompanying his father, the late Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.
Shaikh Mohammed will call on Dr Singh who will also host a state banquet in honour of the visiting dignitary. He will also call on the President of India, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.
An official delegation from the UAE is already in Delhi to prepare several agreements, which may be signed during the visit.
The UAE and India are also scheduled to sign a Double Taxation Protocol. A double taxation agreement already exists between the two countries. A visa avoidance agreement on government officials and diplomats holding passports of either of the two countries will also be signed to facilitate their visit to the other country.
Under discussion between the two countries are agreements on customs cooperation, exchange of prisoners in the two countries (an extradition agreement already exists) and an agreement on combating international terrorism, money laundering and other crimes. A meeting between the pre-visit delegation of the UAE and its Indian counterpart will be held in New Delhi today, according to the Ambassador, who’s leaving for India today.
He said private sector companies of India and the UAE were expected to sign MoUs during the visit. He hinted that seaports, the IT and the infrastructure sectors had offered mega projects that could be of interest to UAE companies.
Bhandari said Shaikh Mohammed will arrive in New Delhi on March 25 afternoon with his delegation of 25 to 30 members. On March 26 morning, Shaikh Mohammad will attend a formal ceremonial reception on the front lawns of the Presidential Palace where he will be received by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and introduced to the Indian Cabinet of ministers. Both the Prime Ministers will have a short interaction with the media.
After the reception, Shaikh Mohammed will visit Rajghat to pay respect to Mahatma Gandhi. He will then meet President Kalam. Shaikh Mohammed will address Indian businessmen and industrialists during a meeting organised jointly by the Associated Chambers of Commerce, Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. It will also be attended by an Indian minister.
A meeting is also scheduled to be held with Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee before the formal meeting between Shaikh Mohammed and Dr Singh. The two leaders will be discussing bilateral relations and regional issues.
The Ambassador said Dr Singh will brief Shaikh Mohammed, among other issues, on the progress in India’s talks with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal as well on the SAARC summit scheduled in New Delhi next month.
The meeting between the two leaders will be followed by the signing of bilateral agreements between the UAE and India, Bhandari said.
“Today the two countries are conscious of their responsibilities, individually and jointly, in maintaining regional peace and stability and combating international terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes. Both countries are desirous of strengthening institutional links between their law enforcement agencies and financial and regulatory authorities and institutions,” Bhandari said in a statement issued at the Press conference.
“What is particularly satisfying is that our partnership is balanced with each side having a strong stake in the other country’s economic and social development. UAE investments in India in mega infrastructure projects are in the making whereas the India Inc already has a strong stake in the UAE’s economy,” he said.
“Not many people may know that the largest number of companies registered in the UAE are from India. IT, telecom, pharma, bio-technology, nano-technology, manufacturing for regional markets and services sector like health, education and tourism have a great potential for joint collaborations on both sides,” said the Ambassador.
“People-to-people ties are strong and both peoples have great fascination for each other’s cuisine, social customs, music, films, culture and religious practices,” added Bhandari.
Helpline for workers
DUBAI — March 22: Labourers in the UAE can now call a toll-free helpline number 800 665, set up by the Ministry of Labour (MoL), to lodge and follow up complaints. The hotline would be operational round-the-clock.
Inaugurating the new hotline service, Minister of Labour Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi said yesterday it will also assist both labourers and companies to avail information relating to MoL’s policies and procedures.
“They can call the hotline and get updated information about their various transactions with the ministry. They do not have to personally visit the MoL offices,” he said.
Complaints will be forwarded by the call centre assistant to the relevant authorities and the latter will take up the matter immediately.
After a complaint has been lodged, MoL officials will also visit worksites or labour camps to investigate the complaints.
The helpline service is available in five languages — English, Arabic, Malayalam, Tagalog and Urdu. A group of 15 dedicated MoL representatives will be able to handle about 700 calls a day.
Al Kaabi said, “Anybody can contact this helpline and get information on issues regarding the ministry.”
Faisal Al Wahaibi, general manager of Mena Business Services, the company managing the service on behalf of MoL, said: “In the second phase, we will be processing applications relating to different MoL services through our call centre.”
Mobiles to record traffic violations
DUBAI — March 22: The Dubai Police have begun registering traffic offences on mobile phones.
Traffic policemen take photos of vehicles that flout rules on their mobile phones, collect relevant information and forward photos to the central unit monitoring traffic violations.
Motorists who have been caught violating laws will be notified via their mobile phones, e-mail or their land lines.
Colonel Nadir Fikri, Deputy Director of E-services, Dubai Police, and head of the taskforce implementing the new system, said mobile phones equipped with a specially designed software had been given to 14 officers during the trial phase. Every officer has his own password to log on to the system.
According to him, motorists who deny that they have breached rules can ask for photos of how the violations occurred by paying a nominal fee, as is the case with violations detected on radars.
“The system was designed in five months and a number of features were added to the software and the phones,” he said, adding that a new batch of monitoring systems would also be installed to book vehicles parked at unauthorised spots.
Brigadier Isa Aman of the Dubai Traffic Police said, “The new system for booking traffic offences via mobile phones will save time and efforts of traffic observers.”
An official at the radar section said a new laser-operated mobile radar will start working soon and can save as many as 400 photos of vehicles breaking speed limits.
Principal removed for forging results
DUBAI — March 22: In his first decision of this kind since taking office, the Minister of Education, Dr. Hanif Hassan, has removed the Principal of a high school in Sharjah for forging examination results.
The Principal had reportedly manipulated the re-examination results of two Grade X students last year, after they had flunked their physics paper. The Principal had allegedly changed their marks to passing grades and promoted them to Grade XI.
The manipulation would have gone undetected but for a teacher of the same school, who had informed the Ministry of Education (MoE) officials about the forgery some two months ago.
The MoE launched its investigations which revealed that the Principal had indeed committed the forgery.
Based on the probe, the Minister issued an order this week, relieving the Principal of her duty, and transferring her to a training centre for teachers in Sharjah.
Police rescue fainted worker
DUBAI — March 22: The Dubai Police rescue team last Sunday saved an Asian worker who had fainted due to the strong smell of paint in an under-construction building in Dubai.
The worker was painting a room where he had entered through a small hall, when he suddenly started feeling tired and collapsed.
The Dubai Police arrived to the scene immediately and its rescue team, accompanied by a doctor, entered the room using gas masks.
They managed to rescue the fainted worker in an operation that took nearly two hours.
The worker was admitted to the Rashid Hospital.
Dubai - Let them run free
Dubai - March 22: Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, fresh from her successful stint in UK’s Celebrity Big Brother, will soon be seen on billboards in Dubai speaking about cruelty to animals. Shetty will pose in an advertisement for animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) dressed in figure-hugging bodysuit, crouched in a small cage with a look of despair on her face to illustrate the misery of animals confined to circuses.
“Circuses are no fun for wild animals who are caged, beaten and deprived of all that is natural to them”, says Shilpa, who received international fame following her race row in the reality show. “The best advice for children and parents who want to help animals is simply to boycott circuses that use animals.” Speaking to 7DAYS, PETA volunteers said they plan to introduce the advertisement on billboards across the city.
“Hopefully the ads will be up on billboards in Dubai in the next couple of months. There are different animal acts performed in the Middle East and we want the people to get the message before the next circus is announced,” said PETA volunteer Jason Baker. Volunteers said Shetty approached PETA with the idea and they agreed considering that she is very popular in the Middle East.
PETA claims that in contrast to the glittery image the circus tries to project, the lives of animals who are forced to perform confusing and often painful tricks are miserable. “Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads or jump through rings of fire, so circus handlers use whips, electric shock prods and other tools of torture to train them. Circus animals work based on fear, knowing they will be hurt badly if they do not obey,” said a PETA statement.
SCHOOL OF BAROQUE
Dubai - March 22: In an attempt to keep students calm and relaxed, schools in Dubai are now playing classical music in the corridors and classrooms - all part of a new focus on de-stressing children. Principal and CEO of Wellington International and Jumeirah College, Geoff Turner, told 7DAYS: “We play classical music as the children come into school in the morning, and again when they leave in the evenings. Sometimes someone will throw in the odd bit of Meatloaf too, which makes everyone smile. It creates a calm environment and makes the children feel good.”
Dubai English School’s year six teacher, Nicole Sherwood, said they have a similar system: “We use music in all the primary schools and are looking at introducing Baroque classical music into the corridors. It has a calming effect on the children and if you are doing art work it helps creativity. It also works to play something up-tempo towards the end of day to speed the pupils up for their extra-curricular activities.”
In the UK, stressed school children are being taught how to massage fellow pupils in a bid to improve their concentration and behaviour - something teachers say is working. And Mr Turner, who was headmaster at a northern English school for several years, said the school was in early talks with a herbal therapy centre in Dubai about introducing similar relaxation methods to their personal and social curriculum.
“It’s early days but things like massage could join a long list of extra-curricular activities we offer the children here - which currently include Bollywood dance lessons, diving and the martial art Capoeria”, he explained. Mrs Val Thomas-Peter, currently organising a youth club for pupils at Dubai British School in an attempt to steer them away from hanging around at malls and shisha cafes, agreed saying: “We held yoga classes for a while which were really popular and saw great results. I wouldn’t see these things become part of the curriculum but certainly they are an important add-on.”
Mission to end visit visa abuse
Ministry of Labour now considering requests for work mission visas
Dubai - March 22: The Ministry of Labour has already begun the process of accepting work mission visa requests. Unlike a work visa, a mission visa is a temporary visa that is valid for three months and can be renewed for another three months.
A sponsor can issue a work mission visa if he wants to bring an employee for temporary work, or if he wants to validate the qualification of the worker before signing a long-term contract.
Ahmed Kajoor, Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour, said that the aim of the mission visa is to curb the widespread problem of people working on visit visas.
“We realised that there was a gap because many people are working on visit visas which is illegal. Therefore, we decided to create a short-term work visa which is easy to obtain so that both the employer and the employee can work together for three months and decide if they want to enter into a long-term contract,” Kajoor said. The benefit of this visa is that it is limited to a three-month contract and no ban is issued if the worker is dissatisfied with the job and does not take it up. Similarly the employer is also not obligated to hire the employee.Kajoor said that this service is especially useful for employers who want to hire skilled labour like engineers, doctors, lawyers and technicians.
He also stressed that this visa guarantees the right of the worker. “On a visit visa, the worker does not have any right because he is working illegally and therefore, he is not covered by insurance. The employer has no liabilities. However, with a work mission visa, the worker’s rights are protected,” he added.
An employer can apply for a work mission visa with the License Department. If a committee there approves the request, the rest of the procedure is online. The visa is issued for a maximum of 180 days. It is issued for three months against a fee of Dh 600 and can be renewed for another three months, again for a fee of Dh 600. As per the rules, the employer has to notify the ministry when the worker enters the country. If the employer fails to do so, he will be fined Dh 500 for every 10 days.
Further, Kajoor said that the Ministry has the right to reject converting the work mission visa into a work visa. He also clarified that this service cannot be availed of until and unless an employer sponsors a worker on this visa. Kajoor warned that heavy fines will be imposed if people misuse this service.
Biggest-ever UAE flag nears completion
Those involved in making the flag are hopeful of getting the remaining 50,000 thumbprints this weekend
DUBAI - March 22: The completion of the biggest UAE flag ever-made is now not too far away but the organisers are still in need of around 50,000 more thumbprints to complete their work. And to achieve that target, students from the Emirati Culture Club at the American University of Sharjah are inviting one and all to their stall on the open day organised by the university this Thursday and Friday and hope that by the end of the weekend, they’ll be closer to their goal.
What started out as just an idea of creating the largest UAE flag to commemorate the 35th year of formation of the UAE quickly metamorphosed into a 40-piece creation measuring 37 x 24 metres. The colours of the UAE flag will be added to the material in the form of thumbprints from residents from all walks of life.
Fatima Al Mulla, member of the governing board at the club said, “We hope to present the flag to H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, whose thumbprint on the flag will be the last. “We’ve set an informal deadline of next month, but it will really depend on when His Highness can make the time for us. Also, we are yet to get the thumbprint of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who we expect to hear from really soon.”
The club has already been successful in acquiring the thumbprints of other members of the royal family as well rulers of the other emirates. The group didn’t stop at the palace though. They took their flag to institutions for the disabled, old-age homes, schools and community centres. The UAE national football team was invited to lend their thumbprints after their victory at the Gulf Cup. They’ve had people of all ages from a two-month-old baby to a 106-year-old Emirati, leaving their imprints on the flag. They also invited tourists to join in and lend their thumbprints, to make their creation a true representation of the nation.
“We’ve been working on this idea since December last year and we’ve been really lucky to have the support of so many people already. When we present it to H.H. Sheikh Khalifa, we want it to be a grand ceremony and, therefore, we’re waiting for things to fall in place to really make the last thumbprint memorable,” said Mulla. The 400-odd-member strong Emirati Culture Club is hoping that their target of 250,000 fingerprints inches closer with their university’s open day happening this weekend. “We invite everyone to come and leave their thumbprints. Our flag is not for Emiratis alone. We want everyone to pitch in to make our dream a reality,” said Mulla.