Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the United Arab Emirates for a global leaders summit, talks that were overshadowed by his scheduled inauguration of Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple.
Modi is due to speak at the Zayed Sports City Stadium later on Tuesday, with thousands of Indian expats expected to attend.
Temple a sign of growing closeness between India, UAE
The fact that Modi was willing to travel to the UAE just months before India holds its elections, widely expected in April and May, “shows how important this relationship is” for New Delhi, Viraj Solanki, a researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told the Associated Press. There are an estimated 3.5 million Indian expatriates living in the UAE, and the temple’s construction marks the majority-Muslim nation’s recent moves to recognize the varied faiths of its residents. The UAE has become close with Modi, even as Hindu nationalists have targeted Muslims in India, AP noted.
Modi has made repeated visits to Middle East
India has tended to view its relationship with the Middle East “through a religious lens,” foreign affairs expert C. Raja Mohan wrote in The Indian Express, and Modi’s repeated visits to the UAE signal a shift in how India works with the Gulf: He first visited the UAE in 2015, the first prime minister to do so in more than 30 years. Now, the nations collaborate on security and economic ties. “Modi has talked about doing bolder things in his third term,” Mohan wrote. “That new agenda for the Gulf must include deeper cooperation with the region in promoting prosperity and peace in the Western Indian Ocean.”