x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

UAE consulate proposed for Kerala

Indian authorities say the UAE is planning to open a consulate in Kerala within the next year.

Kerala fishermen return to their village, Sakthikulangara, which has been a source of construction workers for the UAE.
Kerala fishermen return to their village, Sakthikulangara, which has been a source of construction workers for the UAE.

DUBAI // The UAE has officially proposed to open a diplomatic mission in Kerala within the next year.

Indian authorities said officials yesterday handed a letter to the chief minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, expressing their "willingness" to open a consulate in the state, which is home to millions of Indian expatriates in the Gulf.

UAE officials were not available to confirm the move yesterday.

"The objective will materialise in a year," said PT Chacko, the press secretary to Mr Chandy. "The UAE will be the first Gulf diplomatic mission in the state. We have not discussed the exact location yet."

Kerala already hosts a consulate representing the Maldives.

The UAE Ambassador to India, Mohamed Sultan Abdalla Al Owais, who is based in New Delhi but was in Kerala for a three-day international seminar, met with Mr Chandy to present an official proposal.

Mr Al Owais has also requested more flight routes between the UAE and India to be operated by flydubai, the low-cost carrier based in Dubai.

Authorities said the decision came after Mr Chandy made an official request last month for the UAE to open a mission that would make visas and travel easier for the tens of thousands of Keralites who live and work in the Emirates.

The Indian ambassador to the UAE, MK Lokesh, previously denied reports the Indian government had officially raised the issue during a visit to the subcontinent last month by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The news will come as relief to many Keralites, the largest Indian expatriate population in the UAE. A consulate in the state has been a long-standing request by the state's non-resident Indians.

Apart from its embassy, the UAE has a consulate in Mumbai, India's financial capital. But Kerala - the Indian state with the highest rate of literacy - is 2,500km from New Delhi and 1,400km from Mumbai.

"This will really help a lot of Keralites," said Mr Chacko.

There are an estimated 1.75 million Indian expatriates in the UAE, and Keralites constitute most of them.

Foreign remittances from expatriates - mainly those working in the Gulf - form the backbone of Kerala's economy.

Mr Chacko confirmed the UAE had also proposed air routes to Kerala for flydubai, which now flies to only two Indian cities.

"This is to be decided by the central government," he said. "We have forwarded the proposal. The state is very interested in a low-cost carrier from Dubai."

On Sunday, Mr Al Owais took part in a seminar on socio-cultural exchange between the Emirates and Kerala, held at the University of Kerala.

"Your community has played a major role in economic development of our country and is highly respected for its professionalism and perfectionism," he told students from the university's department of Arabic.

pkannan@thenational.ae