Indian residents have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s third visit to the UAE in four years as an affirmation of the close relationship between the two countries.
Mr Modi is due in the Emirates on Friday when he will receive the Order of Zayed, the UAE’s highest civil decoration, in recognition of his role in nurturing ties between the two countries since 2015, when he became the first Indian prime minister to visit the UAE in 34 years.
During the two-day state visit, Mr Modi will meet Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces to discuss bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest, according to a statement from India’s External Affairs Ministry.
Mr Modi’s visit also cements his personal ties with UAE rulers. Sheikh Mohamed was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day celebrations in 2017, his second state visit in less than a year.
“These links are exemplary and very important to us because it is a combination of an age-old friendship based on mutual respect and tolerance,” said VTV Damodaran, head of Gandhi Sahitya Vedi, a group that organises programmes on Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings.
“Even among people who may not support Mr Modi’s party, this visit is appreciated because the Order of Zayed is an honour for India. The warmth between the two countries can also be seen in the permission given for a temple in Abu Dhabi.”
The UAE’s first traditional Hindu shrine is being constructed on land granted by Sheikh Mohamed after Mr Modi announced the project on his first visit.
Swami Brahmavihari, the priest handling international relations for Baps Swaminarayan Sanstha, the organisation building the temple, said he recalled Mr Modi’s affectionate words for Sheikh Mohamed.
“Both of us are like brothers,” he remembers Mr Modi saying when both leaders approved plans for the temple in February 2017 at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi.
“This visit will bring greater joy, pride and inspiration to all Indians based in the UAE particularly when our Prime Minister formally receives the UAE’s highest civilian award in recognition of his ceaseless efforts in building stronger ties between India and the UAE beyond just trade and economics,” Swami Brahmavihar said.
“His third visit to the UAE in a short time frame amplifies the strong bonds of personal friendship between the two leaders and their nations.”
He hailed both leaders for their “generosity and support to generate a climate of love, tolerance and development through friendship.”
Mr Modi will then head to Bahrain on August 24-25 marking the first Indian Prime Ministerial visit and hold talks with Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
“This visit will send a positive message to the world that India has a strong rapport with countries in the GCC,” said Parvez Siddique, senior manager in a telecoms company.
Chandra Prakash, who leads the BJP’s Non-Resident India committee for southern Kerala state, said: "Business ties with India and the number of expatriates living here are all part of the special place the Gulf states have with India."
New Delhi has recently started issuing five-year, multiple-entry business and tourist visas for UAE citizens and the UAE is India’s third-largest trade partner with annual trade exceeding $60 billion.
Indian residents also see Mr Modi’s visit as an opportunity to discuss with GCC countries his government's revoking of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
This month, India dropped a constitutional provision, or Article 370, that allowed the state autonomy to make its own laws.
Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which won a landslide electoral victory in May, maintains it is a domestic issue. Pakistan has cut diplomatic and economic ties with India.