Analysis: How Should India Reciprocate UAE’s Generosity?

Analysis: How Should India Reciprocate UAE’s Generosity?

UAE President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan not only gifted land but extended the fullest cooperation in the construction of the grand BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi. How should India reciprocate the generosity of the UAE?

Abhay VaidyaUpdated: Sunday, February 25, 2024, 10:34 PM IST
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The BAPS Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi | File Pic

Grace should be reciprocated with grace. That’s the thumb rule in all human relationships, most certainly in international diplomacy.

Early this month, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) scored a new milestone in friendship and cooperation with the inauguration of the grand Rs. 700 crore Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) temple in Abu Dhabi.

The first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, the land for this temple was gifted by UAE’s President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2015 and the foundation was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017.

In his inaugural speech, Prime Minister Modi showered extraordinary praise on the UAE for “writing a golden chapter in human history.” He spoke of diversity of religions and cultures in India as “our speciality” and expressed the hope that the BAPS Mandir would emerge “as a symbol of communal harmony and global unity for the whole world.”

The Nagara-style temple marks a rare coming together of Hinduism and the Islamic world. It has seven shikharas (spires) representing the seven emirates of the UAE. The temple has carvings of native animals of the desert nation such as camels, oryxes and the national bird, falcon. It also has depictions of 14 parables from ancient civilisations, including Egypt, Mesopotamia and West Asia.

During PM Modi’s visit to the UAE, a number of bilateral agreements were also signed by the two nations on the India-Middle East Economic Corridor, investment promotion, power, and port infrastructure development among others, strengthening the ties between the two nations.

On this visit the PM also spoke at the World Governments Summit in Abu Dhabi calling for “governments that are inclusive, take everyone along and are clean and free from corruption.”

Undoubtedly, PM Modi scored a major diplomatic victory for India with the temple inauguration and the freeing of eight former Indian naval officers who were sentenced to death in Qatar on charges of spying. At the same time, many would like to question whether the PM was being honest with all that he said in his speech in the UAE.

If the PM really believes in inclusivity as he said in his speech in Abu Dhabi, why is it that his government does not have a single Muslim minister even though Muslims constitute the largest minority in India with a population of an estimated 200 million?

Likewise, while the PM praises India's religious and cultural diversity abroad in almost every visit, do the actions of the BJP governments at the centre and the states corroborate this sentiment?

Leave aside the enactment of new controversial laws, hate speech, alteration of history textbooks; change in names of roads and an assault on the food habits non-Hindus. How often does the BJP hold inter-religious gatherings and prayers in the country as a symbol of India’s respect for other cultures and religions as was done during the BAPS temple inauguration in Abu Dhabi?

In December 2023, this journalist had an opportunity to visit Masjid-i-Jehan-Numa, the grand Jama Masjid of Delhi, one of the largest mosques in India.

As one climbed the steps and entered the Jama Masjid, there was a feeling that this monument constructed by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan almost three-and-a-half centuries ago, could do with a lot of upkeep and beautification.

The precincts of the Jama Masjid also needs to be beautified, befitting its stature, importance and grandeur.

Every year during the Ramzan Iftars (meals after sundown) and Id celebrations, Indians from across communities join their Muslim brothers in trying out the various delicacies cooked on the occasion. Can this food festival be organised in a still better way?

India has an opportunity to reciprocate the generosity of the UAE by taking up a project for the beautification of the Jama Masjid. This initiative would help score multiple victories for Modi and his government and for India, nationally and internationally.

The heart-to-heart gesture would be much appreciated by Muslims and everyone who truly believes in India’s multi-religious and multi-cultural character. It would further strengthen India's ties with the Muslim world and also serve as yet another shining example of India's religious and cultural diversity. Significantly, it would also help silence PM Modi's critics.

Will India reciprocate the generosity of the UAE?


The author is a journalist and works for a policy research think tank. He tweets at @abhay_vaidya

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