PM Modi will inaugurate the grand Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the UAE, on 14 February

by Ravi Chand

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to UAE on 13 February 2024 would be his seventh visit to the country as PM. PM Modi is set to inaugurate the grand Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi, the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the UAE, on 14 February. More than 60,000 Indians will pack into the Zayed Sports City Stadium on 13 February, on a working day, to listen to the PM address the expatriate community in the UAE. The summit will be a spectacular showcase of Indo-UAE friendship and the rich cultural tapestry of India, featuring over 400 local talents in a series of captivating performances.

It marks a significant moment for the Indian diaspora to reflect on the Indian government’s accomplishments over the past decade and to embrace Prime Minister Modi’s vision for India’s future as a global leader. Notably, PM Modi’s 2015 address in the UAE resonated with the Indian community, as it included the historic announcement of the land grant for the first Hindu temple in the region.

When PM Modi visited the UAE in 2015, it was already 34 years since an Indian PM had visited the country that has the highest Indian population living outside of India. As per a United Nations report in 2020, there are 18 million Indians who live outside of India and a top destination is UAE (3.5 million), followed by the US and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, it is a significant fact that Indians form 30% of UAE’s population. The remittances from NRIs from UAE to India was US$43 billion in 2020, according to the World Bank, even during the pandemic. UAE is the third largest export and import partner for India. UAE has committed $100 billion for investment and infrastructure creation in India.

India and UAE have a “comprehensive strategic Partnership” and engagement in recent times. UAE has conferred highest Civilian Award “the Order of Zayed” on PM Modi. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of UAE was in the India to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit as the chief guest of the summit. He has visited India multiple times in Modi’s tenure including being the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebration in 2017. India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar put the India-UAE relationship in perspective: “India and UAE share a fast-growing relationship. UAE is central to India’s extended neighborhood. We see UAE on the crossroads of the international trade. As Singapore is to the East, UAE is to the West.”

Recently, UAE has entered into an agreement to invest in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh. UAE was among the first countries that backed India on the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir by its Ambassador to India, Dr Al Banna viewing this latest decision related to the state of Jammu and Kashmir as an internal matter.

Since 2014, India has worked with the UAE on various counter-terrorism issues. In December 2020, Indian authorities in coordination with UAE had foiled a Pakistani ISI-backed terrorist attack in Delhi. The arrested terrorists consisted of 2 Khalistani and 3 Hizbul Mujahideen members. The head of the cell was arrested in UAE and deported to India. Both countries conducted their first military exercise named Desert Cyclone together in Rajasthan on 4 January 2024.

From a cultural perspective, UAE has fast emerged as a very tolerant society and respecting diversity in its population despite Islam being the official religion. It is probably the only country in the world to have a Minister of Happiness and a Minister for tolerance and co-existence. The land for the upcoming Hindu temple was donated by the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and sets an example of generosity that the UAE Hindu community will always pay a gratitude to.

The upcoming 7th visit by PM Modi to UAE will become another milestone. As per reports, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), the largest sovereign wealth fund in the UAE, is preparing to launch a substantial $4-5 billion fund aimed at investing in India through the tax-neutral finance hub in Gujarat, known as Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). IIT’s first overseas campus abroad will start enrollments from 2024 and has started operations.

The Indian Hindu community and the diaspora will remember the inauguration and pran-pratishtha of the first Hindu stone temple in the Middle East by PM Modi for centuries to come.

Ravi Chand, an NRI educationalist based in Dubai, is founder of and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Global Foundation