Pearls for spices, dates for silk. This type of trade formed the bedrock of UAE-India ties for much of the last 5,000 years. But as the world's largest democracy enters a new era of cooperation with one of the Gulf's most progressive economies, gems and fabric must give way to microchips and medical devices. In a global economy, partnerships adapt.
Leaders here recognise that need. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE's minister of foreign trade, once predicted that Indian engineers might transform this country's skylines, while UAE investment could modernise India's health care industries. Her vision has proven prescient, to the benefit of both nations. Yet there's no question ties can grow stronger still.
The visit this week of the Indian president, Pratibha Patil, to the UAE - the first by an Indian head of state in seven years - is one step to this more prosperous future. Mrs Patil says India's trade with the UAE topped $43 billion in the last year, and her nation hopes to more than double that figure by 2015. This ambition makes sense given India's reliance on Gulf energy sources, and that millions of its citizens call the region home.
These links are equally important for the UAE, which is reliant on foreign investment, free markets, and foreign labour. A stronger partnership with New Delhi will be critical as the UAE hopes to diversify away from oil.
Wishing for an expansion of ties won't make it so, of course. As the Indian president made clear on the eve of her visit, maintaining "relevant and dynamic" relations means ensuring they are "constantly revitalised". What that means will differ for each nation, but undoubtedly innovation will be a part of the equation.
One possible push for future investment could come from aerospace cooperation. To keep pace with growth, India will require a vast expansion of its airline sector - some 3,000 planes over the next decade by one estimate - equipment that will need new service contracts. UAE-based companies like The Emirates Group are well positioned to fill this need. Petrochemicals and high-tech gadgetry are other obvious places for expansion. As we reported yesterday, the Abu Dhabi Government has big plans for microchip manufacturing.
Abdul Kalam, the last Indian president to visit the UAE, in 2003, envisioned a future of "long and mutually beneficial joint ventures" in which both nations walked "hand in hand" towards economic prosperity. As Mrs Patil's visit reminds us, this important journey will and must continue.