DC Edit | PM strengthens ties in Gulf

It was a dual thanksgiving trip for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On the first leg of his trip, on his seventh visit to the UAE, he was on hand to accept the recognition of millions of Indian workers who helped build the United Arab Emirates and the faith of Hindus among them was being recognised in a grand temple in Abu Dhabi, the virtual capital of the seven emirates.

The second leg of his trip, after a quick hop west to Doha, was to thank the Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar, for pardoning eight Indian Navy veterans of espionage charges that entailed capital punishment. Using its soft power, economic heft and diplomatic persuasion, India had saved its citizens who had got involved in a grave situation in which they were accused of helping Israel with intelligence.

While the Prime Minister’s trip — in 2015, Mr Modi was the first Indian PM to visit the UAE after 34 years — may have helped further strengthen the bonds with an important region for India’s economy — in terms of record inward remittances as well as exports — it is the sincere recognition that India gets there that is significant.

The BAPS (Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha) temple in Abu Dhabi is not the first in the UAE (Dubai has had two for years), but in coming up in an Emirate that is more conservative than the cosmopolitan, inclusive and outward looking Dubai, it reflects the growing acceptance of religious diversity in a place where expatriates outnumber the small local population.

The interesting background to the construction of the pink marble structure is that a Muslim ruler granted the land for a temple whose chief architect is a Catholic, with a Sikh as project manager, a Buddhist as designer for a construction company belonging to a Parsi with a director who is a Jain. This is a refreshing example of how diversity has helped modernise a petroleum-rich conservative region. And Indians have had a substantial role to play in this outcome.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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