Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed and Narendra Modi prior to a meeting at the Emirates Palace during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the UAE in 2015. Modi visited the UAE again in February 2018. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf News Archives

ABU DHABI: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has conferred on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the Zayed Medal, the highest decoration awarded to heads of states, it was announced in the capital yesterday, much to the delight of the Indian community in the UAE.

The award is in appreciation of Modi’s role in consolidating the long-standing friendship and joint strategic cooperation between the UAE and India.

Commenting on the announcement, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said the Indian prime minister had played a pivotal role in enhancing bilateral ties to the level of comprehensive strategic relations.

“By granting our dear friend the Indian Prime Minister the Zayed Medal, we express our appreciation for his role and efforts in developing friendly relations and extending bridges of cooperation between the UAE and the Republic of India in various fields,” he said.

Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed said the historical relationship that the UAE shares with India is being renewed strategically and strengthened in preparation for the future. He praised the values that characterise Indian society in its diversity, especially tolerance, coexistence and respect.

His Highness expressed pride at the strong friendship and cooperation between the UAE and India, and wished the country and its people continued progress, prosperity, security and stability.

In response, Modi tweeted, “Thank you, Your Highness Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. I accept this honour with utmost humility. Under your visionary leadership, our strategic ties have reached new heights. This friendship is contributing to the peace and prosperity of our people and planet.”

Indian community elated

Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri told Gulf News, Today is a historic day for us. I have been saying all along that India-UAE relations is going through a golden era and this morning’s announcement of conferring the UAE’s highest honour on the Indian Prime Minister is a recognition of his contribution to the transformation of relations between the two countries.”

He said UAE and India had witnessed many milestones in the recent past, notably the visit of the Indian prime minister to the UAE in 2015 and the visit of Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to India in February 2016 and again as chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations in January 2017.

“The honour is also a reflection of Modi’s international stature and his close ties with the Islamic world,” he said, adding that the Indian prime minister has raised India’s standing in the UAE and other parts of the world.

Prominent businessmen from the Indian community said it was a moment of pride for all Indians.

Vasu Shroff, Chairman of Regal Traders, said, “As an Indian, I feel very proud today. The UAE and India have a very long-standing relationship — I have been in the UAE since 1952 — and it is wonderful to see that it is growing from strength to strength. I have to say that I find Prime Minister Modi to be a sensible and honest man who works for the country, and not for himself.”

Ram Buxani, Chairman of the ITL Cosmos Group, who has also been in the UAE since 1959, said, “It is a matter of great pride for the Indian community and India that the UAE has recognised the value of our prime minister. It says a lot. The close bonding between the two countries is also evident in the day-to-day interactions between Indian and Emirati people.”

Chandu Siroya. Managing Director of Siroya Jewellers and vice-president of the Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group said, “This is fantastic news. It only underlines the contributions of the Indian Government and Prime Minister Modi in enhancing the bilateral relations between the UAE and India.”

Milestones in UAE-India relations in recent past

• Transformation of a bilateral relationship into a comprehensive strategic partnership

• Deepening of energy ties

• Strong cooperation in defence, including the first bilateral naval exercise

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UAE in August 2015 and February 2018

• Launch of a Hindu temple project in Abu Dhabi

• Visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to India in 2016 and as chief guest at the Republic Day parade in 2017

• India, UAE sign MoU for cooperation in the field of manpower

• Currency swap agreement

• UAE becomes tenth biggest investor in India for foreign direct investment

• Proposal for new food corridor between the two countries

• India designated Guest of Honour at Abu Dhabi Music & Art Festival last year

• India invited as Guest of Honour at Organisation of Islamic Countries meet in UAE this year

Earlier recipients of the Zayed Medal (Order of Zayed)

The Order of Zayed is the UAE’s highest civil decoration

• President of China Xi Jinping, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (2018)

• Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia (2016)

• Morocco’s King Mohammad VI (2015), His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,

• Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir, His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah

• Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (2012)

• Queen Elizabeth II (2010)

Source: GN Archives