Diplomats caution against PM visit to UAE in poll season

Updates from :  the Hindu :

Modi likely to participate in shilanyas ceremony of temple in Abu Dhabi

A high-level political visit to Abu Dhabi in the middle of the general elections would be detrimental to the long-term India-UAE relationship, veteran diplomats and commentators have said. The comments came after local reports from Abu Dhabi indicated that there is a likelihood of a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a shilanyas event at an under-construction Hindu temple.

“The United Arab Emirates is the most liberal of the Gulf monarchies and our relationship with them is also very old. However, a visit by the Prime Minister to participate in a shilanyas in election season will throw up visuals that will be used in the elections,” said Ambassador Rajiv Dogra cautioning against such a trip.

Local sources in Abu Dhabi and a diplomatic source confirmed to The Hinduthat there is a possibility of a visit by the Prime Minister on April 20 to participate at the shilanyas ceremony at the BAPS Abu Dhabi Hindu Temple where work began in February 2018 during his visit to Abu Dhabi.

Then, a controversy had broken out after an old video of a UAE journalist saying Hindu religious words had been telecast in a few Indian TV channels where the person was introduced as the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi. Some of the anti-Islam comments at that time attributed to Sakshi Maharaj of the BJP also had drawn negative comments from the concerned quarters.

Another veteran diplomat said the Model Code of Conduct in place needs to be kept in mind during such an outreach by the political leadership of the current government. In a 2018 interview to The Hindu, the UAE ambassador had expressed his country’s desire for religious openness as a policy and stated that the UAE had hosted mosques, temples and gurdwaras for Indians for decades.

Former ambassador M.K. Bhadrakumar, however, cautioned that while engaging UAE, India should keep in mind relationship with Iran whom he termed as a “genuine ally against terrorism.”

“Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia have a mixed record when it comes to fighting terrorism. It is Iran that is closest to us in the cause of fighting terrorism. Therefore we should never dilute ties with Iran by getting too close to the Gulf Arabs,” said Mr. Bhadrakumar.

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