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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offers stump re-election speech on international stage in UAE

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a stump speech for his re-election on a global stage in the United Arab Emirates, describing his years in power as pushing for “minimum government, maximum governance.”

Jon Gambrell
Wednesday 14 February 2024 09:28 GMT
India Narendra Modi
India Narendra Modi (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a stump speech for his re-election on a global stage Wednesday in the United Arab Emirates, describing his years in power as pushing for “minimum government, maximum governance.”

Modi's comments come as he prepares for the inauguration of a stone-built Hindu temple near Abu Dhabi, the country's capital, after meeting with the Emirati leader he's repeatedly described as “his brother.” That personal touch seems aimed at further cementing ties with the UAE, an oil-rich country that supplies India's energy needs while also serving as a home for some 3.5 million of his countrymen abroad.

“I believe that people should neither feel the absence of a government, but at the same time, nor should there be pressure from the government,” Modi said in a speech before the World Governments Summit in Dubai. “In fact, I believe that the government should interfere as little as possible in the lives of people.”

Modi entered the hall at the summit in Dubai, accompanied by the city-state's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Now on his seventh trip to the UAE since becoming prime minister, Modi already received a warm welcome from the autocratic nation's president, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Modi described a series of his government's achievements, while also broadly touching on challenges facing the world.

“Terrorism, with every passing day, has been taking on new forms and is posing new challenges to mankind. Even climate-related challenges are becoming bigger with the passage of time,” Modi said. “On the one hand, there are domestic concerns and on the other the international systems seem in disarray. And amidst all of this, every government faces a very big challenge of safeguarding its relevance.”

He added: "It is as a friend to the world that India is moving forward."

Modi’s arrival came as Indian police on Tuesday used tear gas and detained some farmers who clashed with them and tried to break barricades, blocking their way to New Delhi to demand guaranteed crop prices. In 2021, farmers camped for months in the Indian capital after Modi withdrew controversial agriculture laws that had triggered the earlier protests.

The latest protests could pose a significant challenge for Modi and his governing Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the coming elections in India, the world’s largest democracy. However, Modi is widely expected to win a third term.

Modi’s visit highlights the nations’ long-standing economic and historic ties, from spice selling and gold smuggling in the UAE’s formative years to tens of billions of dollars’ worth of annual bilateral trade today.

The countries signed a free trade deal in 2022 aimed at doubling their bilateral trade to $100 billion. The countries have agreed to allow India to settle some payments in rupees as opposed to dollars, lowering transaction costs.

The relationship also underscores the Emirates’ realpolitik foreign policy. The UAE has embraced Modi as Muslims in India increasingly come under attack by Hindu nationalist groups. Modi received the Emirates’ top civilian honor in 2019 even as he stripped statehood from the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.

Modi’s original visit to the Emirates in 2015 was the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years.


Associated Press writer Malak Harb in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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