The Prime Minister’s visit to the Gulf country is in commemoration of the President of UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on May 13. However, analysts view it as a damage-control exercise in the wake of the intemperate utterances of a foul mouth BJP functionary.
Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi will visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on June 28 while returning from Germany where he will represent India at the G7 summit during June 26-27. His visit to the Gulf country is in commemoration of the President of UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who passed away on May 13.
However, the recent controversy in India over the comments of a BJP office-bearer about the life of the Prophet of Islam is going to follow Modi to the UAE. Analysts view the upcoming visit of the Indian Prime Minister to the Muslim country as a damage-control exercise in the wake of the blasphemous utterances of a foul-mouthed BJP functionary.
The analysts believe that the visit of the Indian Prime Minister is planned to assure the UAE rulers that his government‘s domestic political considerations won’t spill over to the international arena. They hence won’t denigrate the religious faith of the UAE’s rulers.
The UAE had joined Qatar and other Gulf countries in condemning the remarks by, now suspended and expelled BJP leaders, Nupur Sharma and Navin Kumar Jindal respectively, who made intemperate remarks about the Prophet in an effort to browbeat Indian Muslims and were offensive to the believers’ Islamic faith residing in 57 countries, where they are in majority.
The comments by the BJP office-bearer were broadcast on national TV and on social media and were provocative to the core. It was out and out blasphemous in nature and drew widespread outrage in the Arab and Islamic world. In the Gulf countries, the outrage was amplified by the public opinion expressed online and the heads of many states took exception to the words that willy-nilly had the backing of the government in power.
In recent times, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is often found to be in a combative mood when questions are raised on Muslim persecution in India in the Arab world. India’s MEA has hauled the 57-member Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) asking it to mind its business and don’t raise the issue of Muslim religious persecution going on in India.
However, the MEA has changed its tack when the Arab nations started talking about the foul-mouth utterances of the BJP functionary about their religious fountainhead. When some Arab countries started talking about boycotting Indian goods and throwing Indians from their country, the MEA changed its colours like a chameleon. It came out with a statement that New Delhi has dealt with the Prophet issue and “adequate” action has been taken against those who uttered the bad words.
To quote India’s former foreign Secretary late AP Venkateswaran, “MEA has two mouths, one from the front and the other from the back. It uses the two as a matter of convenience.” Well, one has revisited his episode to understand the context in which he was talking, but suffice it to tell how position changes when it comes to brass tacks.
The UAE is very important to India for its energy requirement and is one of the major suppliers of oil to India. It is also important from the point of view of the many Indian expatriates working there sending pots of money through foreign remittances that pump the Indian economy.
While there is open persecution of Indian Muslims in India, the BJP stalwarts are hurling slurs at the minority community day in and day out. At times, in the heat of the moment, they cross the demarcation line between Indian Muslims and Islam. Consciously, dragged the Prophet of Islam into contention over the Gyaanwapi Mosque oblivious of the fact that their words tested the nerves of the entire global community and how domestic politics can disturb the international forces. India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra has done some cooling down business saying that the UAE leaders will not discuss this matter with the Indian Prime Minister.
“As far as Prophet Controversy is concerned, almost all the Gulf countries have been convinced this will not be repeated again and this issue will not be taken forward in the bilateral meetings. The UAE’s reaction to the remarks on Prophet was measured, and it, like Saudi Arabia, did not summon an Indian envoy to raise concerns, unlike Qatar, Kuwait, and Iran,” he added.
The UAE has emerged as India’s closest partner in the Gulf. It is the only country from the region to sign an FTA (free trade agreement) with India so far. The FTA is to focus on several areas from defense to investments to space to energy deals.
The UAE is the second-largest export destination of India after the US. Exports to the country stood at over $30 billion in 2018-19. For the UAE, India was the second-largest trading partner in 2018 with $36 billion in non-oil trade. The UAE and India are also part of the West Asian Quad that also comprises the USA and Israel.
High-level visits between India and the UAE have been taking place routinely. Prime Minister Narendra Modi shares excellent chemistry with UAE President Md Bin Zayed. He is expected to travel again later this year to visit India Pavilion at Dubai Expo.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at at firstname.lastname@example.org