Around 2.6 million Indians are among the 10 million strong UAE population. What is important to note here that around 8.5 million people in the UAE population are expatriates. The Emirati citizens of the seven Emirates, that together make UAE, are just around around 1.5 million.
Most of the Indians there are from Kerala. They form the largest expatriate group in UAE, a country that is an important trade partner of India, i.e., with around US$ 60 billion of annual trade and counting. That makes UAE India’s third largest trade partner. If trade in goods are taken only, then UAE is the largest trade partner of India globally.
And Indians living there send back home over US$ 12.5 billion annually.
Besides, UAE is an important oil supplier for India in the Gulf region, catering to around 10% of its import needs.
UAE is an important trading partner of India that is also increasingly important for our energy security mix in the changing geopolitical scenario.
So, it was negligent on our part when no prime minister could find time to visit the nation in 34 years and Narendra Modi’s ongoing visit should be seen in that context.
Politically, in India, what would get maximum political traction – has a religious undercurrent – with his visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque this evening. For his political rivals, as they promote, Narendra Modi is a Hindu hardline leader and according to them, Muslims are in danger under his governance. They should have got their answer by now.
What is going to add to the debates is the latest development – that the UAE government has allotted land in Abu Dhabi to build a temple – first in the capital city of an Islamic nation that is a federation of absolute monarchies – Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman and Umm al-Quwain.
India of the day cannot be run with a communal agenda. Muslims are not in minority here. They are around 14% in India’s total population and they are our equal brothers.
And in fact, they are one of the pillars of India’s cultural diversity, something without which India cannot survive as the world’s largest democracy.