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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing Indian diaspora at the 'Ahlan Modi' event at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: India and the UAE are writing a new chapter in history, making it a model for the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Indian expats at ‘Ahlan Modi!’, a grand community reception held in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening. Ahlan is an Arabic phrase used to welcome guests.

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Amidst thunderous claps and chants of ‘Modi, Modi,’ the Prime Minister ushered in at 7pm, waving his hands to tens of thousands of Indians of all ages at the ‘Ahlan Modi’ event at Zayed Sports Stadium in Abu Dhabi, what has been dubbed as be the biggest gathering and celebration of the Indian expats in the UAE ever since his first public address in Dubai in 2015.

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Prime Minister Modi waves to the crowd after his address at the event. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Speaking in the presence of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, whom he addressed as India’s close friend and well-wisher, Modi struck a chord with the large Indian community by speaking for nearly 40 minutes about India’s progress in various fields, strong India-UAE relations and praising the hard work of the 3.5 million-strong Indian expats for their contributions and thanking the UAE’s leadership for hosting and taking care of them.

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Residents listening to Modi's speech Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Hailing the centuries-old relations between India and the UAE, he said the strong relations is a model for the world to emulate.

“Both India and the UAE are working together, writing a new chapter in history and you are all with me in this,” he said.

“I have brought the message of 1.4 billion of Indians and the message is that India is proud of you,” he told the audience in multiple Indian languages.

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‘Modi, Modi!’ the attendees cheered. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Modi also aired his message of thanks and wishes to the Emirati brothers and sisters in Arabic.

He specifically thanked the UAE Minister of Youth and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi for greeting India from the International Space Station on International Day of Yoga and India’s Independence Day.

He told the crowd in the packed stadium that they made history in Abu Dhabi by coming from across the emirates, representing all corners of India.

However, every heartbeat, every breath and every voice says long live India-UAE friendship, he said, eliciting huge applause.

Modi urged the audience to live the moment to their hearts’ content because these memories will remain forever in his heart and theirs.

Thanking the UAE President

Modi recalled his first visit to the UAE in 2015, first by any Indian Prime Minister in three decades. Recalling how he was welcomed by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, when he was then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, he said he was made to feel special once again when Sheikh Mohamed received him on Tuesday.

Recollecting the generosity of Sheikh Mohamed when he made the announcement of gifting land for building a temple at that time, Modi said the historic moment of inaugurating the temple is happening on Wednesday. He also recalled about welcoming Sheikh Mohamed four times to India and how hundreds of thousands of Indians queued up to meet him during his last visit last month, terming it an expression of Indians’ gratitude towards the UAE leader.

Hailing how Sheikh Mohamed ensured the safety of the Indian expat community during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said both leaders are now working towards further strengthening the bilateral relations.

Modi highlighted the launch of the RuPay domestic payment card in the UAE and said both the countries are now working on ensuring seamless payment options for the Indian expats.

He said efforts are also on to ensure best education for the Indian students in the UAE, citing the examples of the recently opened IIT Abu Dhabi and the upcoming CBSE office in Dubai.

Speaking at length about India’s achievements under his two tenures, Modi promised that he would make India the world’s third largest economy in his third tenure, preempting his victory in the upcoming Indian elections.

Urging all Indian expats to continue work hard for both the countries’ developments and to strengthen their bond, Modi gave them a parting gift by touring the whole stadium in an open jeep waving at the audience.

Colourful performances

Earlier, the public reception started off with a colourful procession showcasing India’s rich cultural heritage. Expats dressed in ethnic attires displayed various art forms from different Indian states, moving around the stadium accompanied by the traditional drum beats.

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Performers showing the cultural heritage of different Indian states. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Drummers including women presented a separate performance on the stage to enthrall the tens of thousands of residents who had assembled hours before the cultural programmes started.

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There were a series of performances during the event. Photo: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

A patriotic medley of songs in various Indian languages with a group of dancers performing in the background was performed which was later followed by power-packed performances of various Indian dance forms including some of the hugely popular Bollywood dances. The spectators danced and sang along, making it a big community celebration of India’s unity in diversity.

The event also saw the release of theme music video of the Ahlan Modi titled Vishwamitra (Friend of the World) with lyrics praising Modi and India, and thanking the UAE and its leaders. Dubai student and Guinness World Record holder for singing in 140 languages, Suchetha Satish sang the song composed by Bollywood music director Monty Sharma. Suchetha also performed soon after his arrival and later on stage at the event singing songs in multiple languages and one with Emirati singer, together receiving the loudest cheers from the audience.

Two boys in Emirati and Indian outfits ran across the stadium with the flags of the UAE ahead of the official ceremony.

Several members of the audience kept shouting slogans hailing India and chanting “Modi, Modi.”

Many Modi fans were seen wearing uniform outfits and caps with his image. One of them, Dr Ananth Pai, a surgeon and medical director of a hospital in Dubai, said: “We have been waiting for a long time for this event. I didn’t want to miss it and I joined my friends from the Amchi Abu Dhabi group. We got uniform outfits stitched and got the matching caps with the Prime Minister’s photo delivered from India.”

New era

He said Modi’s visit marked a new era in strengthening the India-UAE relations. “Our bilateral relations bloomed after Modi became the Prime Minister. We had never seen these things happening earlier. It is dream come true for us Indian expats who love India and the UAE alike.”

Ajitha Vadorillath, an HR professional in Abu Dhabi, said she was thrilled to be part of the procession showcasing the rich tapestry of Indian culture.

“It’s not just the celebration of our Prime Minister’s historic seventh visit to the UAE. It’s also a celebration of the 3.5million strong Indian community members and our contribution to our second home, the UAE. We are also showing our deep gratitude to the UAE through this event.”

Dr Nishi Singh, head of communications. Ahlan Modi, said the inclement weather had not dampened the spirit of Indians in UAE as more than 2500 turned up for full ground rehearsals of the cultural programme and briefing as volunteers on Monday.

“It was loud and clear that the weather was not going to come in the way of the unique community-driven summit to celebrate the Indo-UAE friendship in a grand way and give a resounding welcome to our PM. Thanks to the diaspora’s enthusiasm, the organisers had to close registrations last week as the number exceeded 65,000. Following the directives of UAE authorities, the numbers of attendees had to be limited by the seating capacity of Zayed Sports City Stadium and the realistic traffic and parking management as attendees are coming to Abudhabi from all over the seven emirates.”

She said free transportation was arranged for groups of people, especially Indian workers. Several Indian schools also arranged transportation to bring students and staff members to the event. Members of over 150 Indian associations and community groups also took part in the event.

“It’s a befitting day for the Indo-UAE friendship on upward trajectory to the benefit of people of both nations led by Indian PM Modi on one side and warmly reciprocated by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” added Dr Singh