Narendra Modi in UAE: Talks investment, visits mosque, meets diaspora

Abu Dhabi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday arrived in the United Arab Emirates in the first prime ministerial visit in over three decades, with boosting trade and investment on top of his agenda.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes a selfie with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, during his visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Sunday. Pic/ PTI

Modi, who is here on a two-day official visit, was received by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the airport and accorded a ceremonial welcome.

In a significant gesture, five brothers of the crown prince were also present at the Abu Dhabi Presidential Airport to receive Modi, according to tweets by external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit the UAE after the 1981 visit of Indira Gandhi, went straight to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the biggest mosque in Abu Dhabi. He spent some time there and also took a selfie with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and Anwar Gargash at the mosque.

He wrote in the visitor's book, saying: "I am confident that it will be a symbol of peace, piety, harmony and inclusiveness that are inherent to the faith of Islam."

In a significant development, the UAE decided to allot land for building a temple in Abu Dhabi for the Indian community.

"A long wait for the Indian community ends. On the occasion of PM's visit, UAE Govt decides to allot land for building a temple in Abu Dhabi," tweeted Swarup.

"PM @narendramodi thanks UAE leadership for this landmark decision," he said.

Modi held talks with the UAE leadership "on ways to enhance bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation and exchanged views on a variety of regional and international issues of mutual interest", said WAM, the UAE's national news agency.

The crown prince expressed his delight at Modi's visit, which, he said, "comes within the context of the distinguished historic, friendly bilateral ties whose foundation was laid down by the late founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan based on culminated into a strong partnership", said WAM.

He emphasised the UAE's "keenness to further broaden its scope of joint cooperation with India".

Later, Modi also visited the ICAD Residential City here, a labour camp housing about one lakh migrant workers from India and other countries of the subcontinent.

Modi interacted with a select group of Indian migrant workers at the ICAD city.

The ICAD camp, spanning about 14 sq km, is also known as the ICAD Workers' Village, and was built three years ago for workers.

The PMO tweeted: "Team India in UAE, interacting with PM @narendramodi."

In the evening, he discussed investment opportunities during a dinner hosted by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), that controls the $800 billion sovereign wealth fund of the oil-rich Gulf country.

Star chef Sanjeev Kapoor was flown to Abu Dhabi to dish up a special vegetarian fare for Modi, a strict vegetarian, by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

"Discussing invest opprts over high level dinner. HH Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, MD of Abu Dhabi Inv. Authority hosts PM," tweeted Swarup.

The ADIA sovereign wealth fund is said to be the world's second largest sovereign wealth fund.

Modi will be seeking to tap the sovereign wealth fund for infrastructure projects in India.

Excitement is high among the Indian expatriates in the UAE, who number 2.6 million, regarding Modi's visit.

Around 20 percent of the Indian workers are white-collar professionals. Indian expatriates comprise 30 percent of the UAE's population and are the largest nationality group.

Indians in the UAE are the largest remitters globally, and sent $12.64 billion to their country in 2014. India is also the third largest source of tourists travelling to the UAE.

Earlier, ahead of his visit, Modi in an interview to the Khaleej Times said: ""I want to see the UAE as our foremost trade and investment partner. We would build regular and effective cooperation in a full range of security challenges. Our armed forces would engage with each other more. We will work together more closely in international forums and in addressing regional challenges. There are no limits to our relationship."

The India-UAE trade crossed $59 billion in 2014-15, making the country India's third largest trading partner after China and the US.

On Monday, Modi is to visit the sustainable Masdar City, where he will address the UAE business community.

Modi will attend a special lunch reception hosted by the Indian Embassy at the Oberoi Hotel in Business Bay, where 25 top business community members will be in attendance.

His last engagement on Monday is a public engagement with the Indian diaspora at the Dubai Cricket Stadium where around 50,000 Indian expatriates have registered to attend.

Modi returns later at night.

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