The UAE decided to allot land for building a temple in Abu Dhabi, the first in the Emirati capital as Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his two-day visit to the strategic Gulf nation. Modi thanked the UAE leadership for this "landmark" decision.
While there are two temples in Dubai, one of Lord Shiva and another of Krishna, there is none in Abu Dhabi.
"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 external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup. "PM @narendramodi thanks UAE leadership for this landmark decision," he said.
There are nearly 2.6 million Indians in UAE which constitutes 30 per cent of the total population.
With terror and investments high on his agenda for talks with the UAE leadership, Modi began his two-day trip to this strategic Gulf nation with a visit to the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, the world's third largest.
Within hours of his arrival in the UAE capital for the visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 34 years, Modi went around the mosque's 180,000 sq ft courtyard which has an exquisite floral design. It is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.
UAE culture minister Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash were present at the mosque and Modi took a selfie with them.
The Prime Minister, wearing a kurta with a cream and red stole, spent about 40 minutes at the mosque, built at an estimated cost of USD 545 million, evincing interest at the imposing 82 domes in seven sizes located inside the worshipping place.
"I am delighted to visit this magnificent place of worship, strikes with its size and beauty. It brings together requisite skills and creation from around the world and serves as a fine example of human achievement and unity. I am confident that it will be a symbol of peace, piety, harmony and inclusiveness that are inherent to the faith of Islam," Modi wrote on the visitor's book.
"It will also serve to remind generations about the extraordinary vision of the late president of UAE his highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan," he wrote. Many Indians had come to see Modi at the mosque.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, a key place of worship in the UAE, is known as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture.
The mosque is third largest in the world after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. It is named after the founder and first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The mosque, constructed from 1996 to 2007, can accommodate around 40,000 people.
Modi also visited the tomb of Shaikh Zayed.
The Prime Minister was earlier warmly received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi along with his five brothers at the airport, in a departure from protocol. The last dignitary to be received by him was the King of Morocco in May this year.
Soon after his arrival, Modi tweeted, "Hello UAE. I am very optimistic about this visit. I am confident the outcomes of the visit will boost India-UAE ties." He also tweeted the message in Arabic.
Modi said, "I deeply appreciate kind gesture of his Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who received me at the airport." The Prime Minister was also accorded a ceremonial reception at the airport.
A long wait for the Indian community ends. On the occasion of PM's visit, UAE Govt decides to allot land for buildng a temple in Abu Dhabi— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) August 16, 2015
Ahead of his talks with the Emirati leadership tomorrow, Modi said he wanted to see the UAE as India's foremost partner in trade and in countering terrorism, noting that both countries have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including extremism.
"We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India's economic, energy and security interests," he said in an interview to Khaleej Times.
Apart from discussions with the Crown Prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Modi will also hold talks with Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum today.
Modi said he was keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership.
Apart from seeking enhanced cooperation in energy and trade, Modi, during the visit, will reach out to investors to promote India as an attractive business destination.
Visit's focus on trade and investments is also reflected in the fact that Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan hosted a dinner in honour of the Prime Minister.
ADIA has USD 800 billion sovereign funds and India is expected to woo it to attract investments in the infrastructure sector.
India-UAE trade, valued at USD 180 million (Dirham 660.6 million) per annum in the 1970s, is today around USD 60 billion, making the UAE, India's third largest trading partner for the year 2014-15 after China and the US.
Modi also interacted with Indian workers at their camps I-CAD to know the problems they face and discussed ways Indian government can help them. The I-CAD Residential Labour Camp houses thousands of migrant labourers from the Indian subcontinent in an area spread over one square kilometre.
Notably, a large portion of the 2.6 million Indians in the UAE are from Bihar and many are Muslims.
Modi's visit to the mosque was the first official engagement of his trip.
Many Indians, including Gujarati businessman and Vice-Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, Zafar Sareshwala, were present at the mosque during Modi's visit.
Security agencies of both nations had cleared a select group of 300 migrant workers to interact with Modi in a modest 20X40-metre sports hall on the premises. Much to the delight of the workers, Modi posed for group photographs.
Given that late Indira Gandhi was the last Prime Minister to visit UAE in 1981, Modi's visit is seen as an opportunity to boost India-UAE ties in key areas of trade and security.
Marvelling at the UAE's spectacular achievements, Modi said, "I have always thought, how this paradise could come up in a desert? What vision! What remarkable skill!"
After holding talks with the Crown Prince here today, the Prime Minister will fly to Dubai, where he will stay for just few hours, which will be packed with a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, the vice president and the Prime Minister of the UAE and a visit to world's tallest tower Burj Khalifa which stands at 2,722 feet and has 154 usable floors.
Before flying back to Delhi, Modi will also address the Indian community at the Dubai Cricket Ground, where over 50,000 expatriates are expected to be present.
Celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor dished up a special vegetarian spread for the Prime Minister at the dinner hosted by Nahyan.
"Star chef @SanjeevKapoor was flown in by UAE hosts for a special vegetarian menu in honour of PM @narendramodi," tweeted Swarup.