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Indian prime minister Modi opens UAE’s first Hindu temple

Modi’s visit comes just days after Qatar freed India’s eight naval officers who were earlier sentenced to death for ‘spying’

Arpan Rai
Thursday 15 February 2024 09:26 GMT
Modi opens controversial Hindu temple on razed mosque ahead of India’s elections

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple, signalling close ties between India and the UAE.

The Hindu majoritarian government’s leader is on a two-day visit to the United Arab Emirates where he is meeting state leaders in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha.

“The @BAPS Hindu Mandir, Abu Dhabi, UAE opens its doors for devotees! Feel very blessed to be a part of this very sacred moment. Here are some glimpses,” Mr Modi said on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday as he shared photos from the inauguration ceremony.

Speaking to a crowd of diaspora gathered at the temple, he said: “Every part of the time that God has given me and the body that God has given me are all for Mother India.”

“Today, the United Arab Emirates has written a golden chapter in human history. A beautiful and divine temple is being inaugurated here. Many years of hard work have been involved behind this moment,” he said.

The temple has been built by the religious and civic organisation Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha or BAPS, which falls within the religious sect of 18th century Hindu yogi Swaminarayan. Mr Modi has fostered close ties with the organisation which has similar temples in India and abroad.

The temple’s seven spires are a nod to UAE’s seven sheikhdoms. A priest consecrated the statues of deities, each worshipped by different Hindu denominations across India.

Mr Modi thanked UAE’s president Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for “his personal support and graciousness in granting the land for the construction of the BAPS Temple in Abu Dhabi,” according to a statement released by the prime minister’s office.

“Both sides noted that the BAPS Temple is a celebration of UAE-India friendship, deep-rooted cultural bonds uniting the two nations, and also an embodiment of the UAE’s global commitment to harmony, tolerance and peaceful coexistence,” it added.

Mr Modi also met Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani after reaching Doha on Wednesday night where the two had dinner.

The visit comes just days after Qatar freed India’s eight naval officers who were earlier sentenced to death on accusations of spying, the Indian government said on Monday.

The eight Indian officers were arrested in August 2022 on spying charges and were sentenced to death in October. The freed naval officers thanked the Indian government and prime minister Narendra Modi in particular who, they said, made a “personal intervention” in the case.

India’s foreign ministry had said it “appreciated the decision by the Amir of the State of Qatar to enable the release and home-coming of these nationals.”

In a widely anticipated election this May, Mr Modi is expected to win a third term as prime minister amid a huge crackdown on Indian opposition leaders, out of which many are facing arrests and raids from investigative agencies.

Human rights experts have questioned Mr Modi’s policies and his governing Bharatiya Janata Party over India’s future, particularly for members of its Muslim minority as they have come under attack in recent years by Hindu nationalist groups.

Back in India, Modi opened a controversial Hindu temple built on the ruins of a historic 16th century mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya which was demolished by a Hindu mob in 1992.

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