By Ayushi Agarwal
Abu Dhabi [UAE], February 11 (ANI): As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate the BAPS Mandir, the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, Indian envoy to the UAE Sunjay Sudhir described it as a testament to the enduring cultural, social, and economic ties between India and the Gulf region.
PM Modi will embark on a two-day official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from February 13-14.
According to Ambassador Sudhir, the BAPS Hindu Temple represents a profound connection between Bharat (India) and the Gulf, reflecting the rich historical tapestry that has woven the two regions together over the ages.
“In the historical perspective, this is something extremely important because it talks about the social, cultural, and economic connect between Bharat and the Gulf over the ages, although there are many more temples in Dubai in other parts of the UAE,” Sudhir said about the significance of the temple’s opening in an exclusive interview with ANI.
He emphasised the temple’s unique importance, not only due to its scale but also because it materialised from the visionary leadership, tracing its roots back to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement during his historic visit to the UAE in 2015.
“What is special about this temple is the scale at which it is happening. Also, the fact that this is a temple that came out of the vision of the leadership,” said Ambassador Sudhir. Despite facing challenges, including the global COVID-19 pandemic, the temple has become a massive structure, a true work of art and a symbol of the shared values encapsulated in the principle of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” – the world is one family.
Ambassador Sudhir highlighted the incredible dedication and contributions of thousands of Indian artisans and devotees during the temple’s construction phase. He shared that many devotees and members of the Indian diaspora personally participated in the construction, symbolising their commitment through “Shramdan” or voluntary labour. The completion of the temple stands as a collective achievement, showcasing the unity and love invested by the community.
The recent preview of the temple for ambassadors from various countries and faiths further emphasised the temple’s universal appeal. Over 35 ambassadors and their spouses, representing diverse faiths, expressed awe at the architectural marvel and the spirit of collaboration between India and the UAE.
“These were ambassadors across countries representing at least five faiths: Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. They were completely amazed that this work of art, this work of determination, this work, which represents the collaboration between our two countries, is now a reality,” the Indian envoy to the UAE also said.
Turning to the broader bilateral relationship, Ambassador Sudhir underscored the remarkable transformation in India-UAE ties over the past decade.
According to him, PM Modi’s visit in 2015 marked the beginning of a new era, ending a 34-year gap since the last Indian Prime Minister visited the UAE. Since then, relations have rapidly evolved, culminating in the signing of a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement in 2017 and the recent Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022.
“Within less than two years of that, we are going to sign a bilateral investment treaty, and that will make the UAE the only country with which India has both a CEPA as well as a bilateral investment treaty. About eight months back, we started the mechanism for settling trade in Indian Rupees and theorems. Now, these are very milestone things, IIT, for instance, which you spoke about,” he added.
The conversation delved into the IIT Delhi Abu Dhabi project, with the Indian Ambassador to UAE identifying it as “a very significant project… the first of its kind.”
He underscored its significance as the first IIT campus in the Middle East. The project, born out of a vision document unveiled in 2022, has already commenced master’s courses in sustainability and energy transition, further solidifying educational collaboration between India and the UAE.
“This would be the first IIT campus ever in the Middle East. And it all came out of the vision document that was unveiled by our leaders in February 2022. It talked about setting up a campus of IIT here. And just about eight months back, in July, when Prime Minister was here, we signed an MoU to establish that campus here. And today is a reality,” the Indian envoy said.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his seventh visit to the UAE, Ambassador Sudhir expressed optimism about the visit’s impact on the bilateral relationship. He highlighted the frequency of high-level engagements between leaders, reflecting the depth and intensity of the India-UAE partnership.
“If you look at the last nine to ten years, the India-UAE relationship is perhaps one of the most transformed relationships because this is a relationship that is actually guided, nourished, and directed by the vision of our leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the UAE president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. And when you elevate a relationship to that level, it’s very important for leaders to keep meeting each other. So it’s not surprising that the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister would be his 7th visit to the UAE,” he added.
In anticipation of the visit, Ambassador Sudhir provided insights into the extensive preparations, both logistical and substantive. The prime minister’s itinerary includes bilateral meetings with key leaders, addressing the World Government Summit in Dubai, interacting with the Indian community in Abu Dhabi, and inaugurating the BAPS Hindu Temple – a symbol of the enduring friendship and collaboration between India and the UAE.
“It is quite an elaborate visit, because this visit will take the Prime Minister to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He’ll have bilateral meetings with President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, as well as with the Vice President of Dubai, the Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid in Dubai,” he also said.
The Indian envoy also mentioned the signing of significant documents that will further enhance the bilateral relationship between the two nations.
Shedding light on the substantial agreements and treaties that are set to be signed during the visit, he said, “There are a lot of very significant documents that will be signed and exchanged, including some treaties, some agreements, and some MoUs. One is the bilateral investment treaty; another very interesting one is an MoU on national archives, because that is something that will help us further rediscover our shared heritage and our shared history.”
Notably, India and the UAE are among each other’s top trading partners, with a bilateral trade of about USD 85 billion in 2022-23. UAE is also among the top 4 investors in India in terms of foreign direct investments in 2022-23, the MEA stated.
By Ayushi Agarwal