At a ceremony in the presidential palace on Saturday, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, presented Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Order of Zayed, the UAE's highest civilian decoration. Afterwards, as the two men posed for photographs, each clasped the other's hands in a gesture of friendship and respect that symbolised the relationship between their two nations.
Mr Modi has been honoured for bolstering ties between the UAE and India. A visit to the Emirates was high on his agenda after his election victory in 2014, and two-way high-level diplomacy has taken place every year since. One result has been the elevation of the $50 billion trading relationship between the two nations to the status of comprehensive strategic partnership, a move that, in Mr Modi's words, reflects a mutual interest in promoting "shared security, peace and prosperity". As Mr Modi was keen to highlight after the ceremony, the award also honours the role generations of Indians have played in the life of the Emirates. Certainly, it will mean a great deal to the many millions of Mr Modi's countrymen and women, past and present, who have contributed so much to this nation's development.
Today, there are more than three million of Mr Modi’s compatriots living and working in the UAE and the remittances they send back to India are a lifeline for the families that rely upon them. These vital breadwinners feel at home here because of the welcome the UAE extends to people of all faiths and nationalities. In this, the Year of Tolerance, many are looking forward to the completion of the UAE’s first Hindu temple, currently being built in Abu Dhabi on land gifted by Sheikh Mohamed.
India and the UAE have much in common. Both are relatively young countries but the ties that bind them stretch back into ancient history, to the 5,000-year-old trading links attested to by archaeological finds in the UAE. The award of the Order of Zayed to Mr Modi salutes that rich past. But it also signals that together, the two countries can anticipate a bright and mutually prosperous future.