Abu Dhabi, June 29: Weeks after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), counted among India’s closest partners, joined criticism from the Islamic world against remarks on the Prophet by the now suspended and expelled BJP leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday met UAE President and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, popularly known as MBZ, and conveyed condolences on the death of the former president of the Gulf nation, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The two leaders also reviewed bilateral ties.
In a special gesture, Mohamed bin Zayed, accompanied by senior members of the Royal family, received Modi at the Abu Dhabi presidential airport. “I am touched by the special gesture of my brother, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, of coming to welcome me at Abu Dhabi airport. My gratitude to him,” Modi tweeted in Arabic and English languages.
This is their first interaction after Mohamed bin Zayed’s election as the new President last month. During their meeting, Modi conveyed his condolences on the death of Sheikh Khalifa, who died on May 13, at the age of 73, after a long illness. He also congratulated Mohamed bin Zayed on his election as President.
“Both leaders reviewed various aspects of India-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which they have carefully nurtured over the past few years,” said a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
“During their virtual summit on February 18, both countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which has since entered into force on May 1. CEPA is expected to further boost trade and investment between both countries,” said the statement.
Bilateral trade in FY 2021-22 was about US$ 72 billion. UAE is India’s third largest trade partner and second largest export destination. UAE’s FDI in India has increased over the past few years and currently stands at over $12 billion.
During the virtual summit, the MEA said, both countries had also released a vision statement which laid the roadmap for bilateral cooperation in diverse areas including trade, investment, energy, food security, health, defence, skills, education, culture and people-to-people ties.
“Both leaders expressed satisfaction that India and UAE continue to forge closer partnership in these areas, building on their close and friendly relations and historical people-to-people connect. India-UAE have a strong energy partnership which is now acquiring new focus on renewable energy,” it said.
Modi thanked Mohamed bin Zayed for “taking great care of the 3.5 million Indian community in UAE, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the MEA said. He also invited him to visit India at an early date, it said.
Earlier this month, UAE had joined criticism from the Islamic world against remarks on the Prophet by the now suspended and expelled BJP leaders Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal.
Expressing its “denunciation and rejection of insults of the Prophet”, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), had “affirmed the UAE’s firm rejection of all practices and behaviors that contradict moral and human values and principles” and “underscored the need to respect religious symbols and not violate them, as well as confront hate speech and violence.”
Modi’s last visit to the UAE was in August 2019, when he received the UAE’s highest award, ‘Order of Zayed’.