In an interconnected world, to draw a distinction between foreign and domestic policy is to continue to live in a world long past. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not achieve success at home unless he succeeds abroad, which is why it would be a trifle churlish to constantly carp at his travels abroad. As Manmohan Singh knows well, relations between India and the major powers of the globe are essential for success in domestic policy, hence the approach of his party towards the PM’s itinerary would be understood for what it is, political posturing designed to show the PM as a leader who is more mindful of his image abroad than his achievements at home. However, even Rahul Gandhi, would find it inexpedient to condemn an achievement of the PM’s recent visit to the UAE, the permission given by Abu Dhabi to set up a Hindu temple within its territory. Such a gesture by the ruler, Sheikh Zayed, has been welcomed as indicative of the modern and moderate spirit of the rulers of the kingdom. Sheikh Zayed’s kingly gesture would go a considerable distance in contradicting those who regard the entire West Asia as being bigoted and intolerant. It is precisely because of the opposite qualities that the people living in the countries forming the GCC not merely tolerate but welcome the presence of millions of visitors and guests from other parts of the world. The absence of rancour at such an influx may be compared to the steady rise of right-wing groups in Europe that seek to push migration into their countries from the underdeveloped world to zero. The visit of PM Modi to the UAE has been long overdue, in that it is now 34 years since the previous visit to the country from a Head of Government. Hopefully, the PM will visit the UAE countries more than once each year, as also countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman, for these are not only home to millions of Indian citizens working there but are a present source of energy and a future source of capital. The GCC has the potential to invest close to a trillion dollars in India in various projects, provided a facilitatory policy and a suitable diplomatic matrix get created.
Despite the short notice, both in Abu Dhabi as well as in Dubai, the authorities ensured that PM Modi had a memorable visit, including such unprecedented gestures of goodwill as giving permission to open a temple in the former and the holding of a 50,000 strong rally in the latter. The PM’s speech was geopolitical rather than political, so that it met the requirements of both his hosts as well as the audience. Correctly, tribute was paid to the former, with the PM pointing with appreciation to the gesture of the Crown Prince himself receiving him at the airport together with five of his brothers. The joint statement released at the end of the visit highlighted the importance of denial of sanctuary and assistance within the UAE to terrorist organisations masquerading as NGOs and as platforms for faith. This will not please Pakistan, which for long has based several of its terror operatives in the region in the process of preparing them for attacks against India. Overall, it needs to be said that the visit of PM Modi to the UAE was loaded with significance, including the visit to a famous mosque in the country — a gesture of respect to a great faith. It is expected that the UAE will send not just oil but investment capital to India, a country with which countries in the region have ties lasting nearly two millennia.