Prime minister Narendra Modi will visit the Gulf nations of United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on 23-25 August, India’s foreign ministry said on Sunday, as New Delhi strives to sustain the tempo of bilateral relations with the economically and politically critical region.
The two visits come as tensions are on the rise between India and Pakistan over the issue of New Delhi revoking a provision in its Constitution that gave a special status to Jammu and Kashmir. The UAE has supported India’s position in the matter — a far cry from the days the Emirate supported Pakistan on such issues. Pakistan has been trying to drum up support for its Kashmir argument among the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that groups together 57 Muslim majority countries. India has been consistently criticized by the OIC for its alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, often seen at the behest of Pakistan.
In March, the UAE invited then Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to be a “guest speaker” at the 46th meeting of OIC foreign ministers, an event that was boycotted by Pakistan. Ties between India and the UAE have been on an upswing since Modi’s first visit to the UAE as prime minister in August 2015.
Modi’s first stop will be the UAE on 23-24 August where he will meet the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss bilateral, regional and international matters of mutual interest, the foreign ministry statement said.
“Prime Minister Modi would receive the Order of Zayed, the highest civil decoration of the UAE which was conferred earlier in April 2019 in recognition of the distinguished leadership of Prime Minister Modi for giving a big boost to bilateral relations between the two countries. The award in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, acquires special significance as it was awarded to Prime Minister Modi in the year of the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed,” it said.
“India and the UAE enjoy warm, close and multi-faceted relations underpinned by cultural, religious and economic linkages which, during the Prime Minister’s previous visit to the UAE during August, 2015, stood elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In February 2018, Prime Minister Modi visited the UAE as chief guest at the World Government Summit. Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has visited India during February 2016 and then during January, 2017 as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations,” the statement said.
Annual bilateral trade between India and the UAE stood at about $60 billion and the UAE was India’s third-largest trade partner. The UAE is also a key source of energy for India, being the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India, the statement said.
On the second leg of his visit, Modi will arrive in Bahrain on 24 August for a two-day visit, the statement said adding that is the first-ever Prime Ministerial visit from India to Bahrain.
“During the visit, Prime Minister would be meeting and holding talks with His Royal Highness Prince Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain to discuss entire spectrum of bilateral relations and also regional and international issues of mutual interest,” the statement said.