India UAE relations

The Indian government has lauded a decision by the United Arab Emirates to allocate land for the building of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi.

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, currently on a two-day trip to the UAE, said in a tweet on Sunday, that he was thankful to the UAE government, describing the move, "a great step". 

There are currently two Hindu temples and one Sikh gurudwara in Dubai, but none in Abu Dhabi. 

On Sunday, Modi became the first Indian premier to visit the country in 34 years, meeting with Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The trip is seen an important step in burgeoning trade relations between India and the UAE, and the decision to allocate land for a temple in Abu Dhabi underpins the strategic vision of the two nations.

The UAE, a federation of seven emirates, is home to about 2.6 million Indian expatriates who comprise a third of the total population and outnumber the local Emirati population. Annual Indian remittances from the UAE are estimated at $14bn.

India is the UAE's second-largest trading partner and the UAE is India's third largest trading partner behind the US and China. Trade between the two reached $60bn last year.

Samir Saran, vice president of the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank based in Delhi, told Al Jazeera that UAE got it right by allocating land for such a venture.

"There will be those who will think that it is about him [Modi] demanding a temple or pushing a religious agenda. It is none of that. It was simply a case of him being the first leader from India to go to UAE after a long time, and it was a goodwill gesture.

"It is still a relationship centred around trade ... Modi certainly didn't go lobbying for a temple," Saran said. 

In July 2013, The Times of India, citing a source within the Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS), said a Muslim businessman had donated five acres of land for the building of a temple in Abu Dhabi.

According to the source, the move came after the BAPS had traveled to UAE on invitation from the Invest AD group based in the Dubai.

It is not clear if Sunday's announcement referred to the same land. 

Azad Essa @azadessa contributed to this report. Infographic by Showkat Shafi @showkatshafi and Mohsin Ali @mohsin   

Source: Al Jazeera