India, Qatar enjoy historically close relations: PM Modi ahead of Doha visit

NEW DELHI: India and Qatar enjoy historically close and friendly relations and the multi-faceted ties between the two countries have continued to deepen in recent years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday ahead of his visit to Doha.Modi said he was looking forward to meeting Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, “under whose leadership Qatar continues to witness tremendous growth and transformation”.The Prime Minister said this in a departure statement ahead of his two-nation visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar.Modi is scheduled to travel to Doha on Wednesday afternoon after concluding his two-day visit to the UAE.The announcement on Modi’s visit to the Qatari capital came on Monday hours after seven out of eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel returned home, nearly three-and-half months after a Qatari court handed them a death sentence that was subsequently commuted to jail terms ranging from three to 25 years.Qatar has released all the eight Indians.The former Indian Navy personnel faced charges of espionage, but neither the Qatari authorities nor New Delhi made the charges against them public.Over the next two days, I will be visiting UAE and Qatar to attend various programmes, which will deepen India's bilateral relations with these nations. My visit to UAE will be my seventh since assuming office, indicating the priority we attach to strong India-UAE friendship. I…— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 13, 2024 Modi’s visit to Qatar on February 14-15 will be his second trip to that country as the prime minister.”India and Qatar enjoy historically close and friendly relations,” Modi said.”In recent years, our multi-faceted ties have continued to deepen in all spheres, including high level political exchanges, growing trade and investment between two countries, strengthening of our energy partnership, and cooperation in culture and education,” he said.The Prime Minister said the presence of over 800,000 strong Indian community in Doha is a “testament to our strong people-to-people ties.” Besides holding talks with the Amir, Modi is scheduled to meet other high dignitaries in Qatar as well.In his statement, Modi said he is looking forward to further advancing India’s comprehensive strategic partnership with the UAE.”Over the last nine years, our cooperation with UAE in diverse sectors such as trade and investment, defence and security, food and energy security and education has grown manifold. Our cultural and people-to-people connect is stronger than ever,” he said.”I look forward to meeting Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, in Abu Dhabi and hold wide-ranging discussions on taking forward our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Modi said.Boosting cooperation in areas of energy, ports, fintech, digital infrastructure, railways and investment flows are set to be the focus of talks between the two leaders on Tuesday.The two sides are likely to ink a number of agreements to shore up cooperation in several key areas.In Abu Dhabi, Modi will also inaugurate the first Hindu temple in the city.”I will also inaugurate the first Hindu Mandir in Abu Dhabi. The BAPS temple will be an enduring tribute to the values of harmony, peace and tolerance, which both India and the UAE share,” the prime minister said.”I will address the members of the Indian community from all the Emirates of the UAE at a special event in Abu Dhabi,” he said.Modi is also set to meet Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president, prime minister and defence minister of the UAE.”I will be addressing the gathering of world leaders at the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 14,” Modi said.My discussions with Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid on the margins of the summit will focus on strengthening our multi-faceted ties with Dubai, he added.First stone-built Hindu temple in the Middle East rises in the UAE ahead of Modi’s latest visitPink sandstone spires decorated with deities and the pious soar above what was once a barren patch of desert between Abu Dhabi and Dubai — now the site of the first stone-constructed Hindu temple in the Middle East.The soon-to-open BAPS Hindu Mandir signals how far the United Arab Emirates has come in acknowledging the different faiths of its expatriate community, long dominated by Indians across construction sites and boardrooms. The temple nods back in its seven spires, the number of sheikhdoms in this autocratic federation on the Arabian Peninsula.The Hindu Mandir stands out in the emptiness of Abu Mureikha, otherwise known for being where the UAE’s sheikhdoms agreed in 1976 to have a unified military. Just off the main highway linking Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the temple is made of sandstone imported from India’s Rajasthan state. Inside, Italian marble shines.Smaller temples have existed for decades in the UAE, but none following the traditional building techniques of the Hindu Mandir. Its carved stones fit like a jigsaw puzzle and provide support without relying on the steel beams of modern architecture.Stone dioramas ring its exterior, beginning with a scene in 1997 with a Hindu leader, shaded by an umbrella, in the sands of Sharjah calling for a temple in Abu Dhabi. The last is a tiny UAE in relief, with religious leaders in front of a temple and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building.Elephants, oryx and other animals abound. Also seen are symbols relating to ancient Egyptians and Mayans and architectural nods to Islam, the UAE’s official religion. Builders hoped to show all faiths are welcome at the site where Hindu worshipers will be able to pray before deities representative of Hinduism’s different denominations.Of the over 9 million people living in the UAE, India estimates more than 3.5 million are Indian expatriates, making them the largest group of people in the country, including Emirati citizens. While many are low-paid laborers, there’s a growing number of white-collar professionals and multiple generations of Indian families.(With inputs from Associated Press)

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