Prime Minister Narendra Modi was honoured with the 'Order of Zayed', the United Arab Emirates's highest civilian award, on Saturday in recognition of his pivotal role in building the strategic relationship between the two countries.
The award has earlier been bestowed on several world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Modi thanked the UAE government for the honour and dedicated the award to the skills and abilities of 1.3 billion Indians.
The award was conferred on Modi by the Abu Dhabi crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in a ceremony held at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi.
'Humbled to be conferred the 'Order of Zayed' a short while ago. More than an individual, this award is for India's cultural ethos and is dedicated to 130 crore Indians. I thank the UAE Government for this honour,' Modi tweeted later.
Ahead of Modi's visit to the UAE, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said the award in the name of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, 'acquires special significance as it was awarded to Prime Minister Modi in the year of the birth centenary of Sheikh Zayed'.
India and the UAE enjoy warm, close and multi-faceted relations underpinned by cultural, religious and economic linkages which, during the prime minister's previous visit to the UAE in August 2015, stood elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership, it said.
The UAE in April had announced to confer the country's highest award on Modi.
In a tweet in April, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said, 'We have historical and comprehensive strategic ties with India, reinforced by the pivotal role of my dear friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave these relations a big boost.'
With an annual bilateral trade of about $ 60 billion, the UAE is India's third-largest trade partner. It is also the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India.
"A 3.3 million-strong vibrant Indian community in the UAE nourishes the vibrant people-to-people contacts between our two friendly countries," the MEA said, adding that Modi's visit would further strengthen the friendly bilateral ties.
Modi also discussed ways to improve trade and cultural ties between India and the UAE with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Welcoming Modi, Nahyan, expressed gratitude to his 'brother' for visiting 'his second home'.
'Had an excellent meeting with His Highness Crown Prince @MohamedBinZayed. We spoke about multiple subjects, including ways to improve trade and people-to-people relations between India and UAE,' Modi tweeted after the meeting.
The prime minister also said the crown prince's 'personal commitment' to strenghten the bilateral relations is 'very strong'.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said there was a 'new energy' in the relationship between the two leaders.
He quoted the crown prince as saying, 'I am so grateful that my brother is coming to his second home.'
With robust flow of bilateral investments and an annual bilateral trade of about $ 60 billion, the UAE is India's third-largest trade partner. It is also the fourth-largest exporter of crude oil for India.
In an interview to the UAE's official news agency, WAM, Modi said India has found a 'valuable partner' in the UAE to achieve its ambitious dream of becoming a $ 5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
He said the UAE-India relations are 'at their best ever', adding that the UAE investments in key sectors in India are growing.
"There has been an increasing interest in investments in India in sectors ranging from renewable energy, food, ports, airports, defence manufacturing and other sectors. UAE investments in infrastructure and housing (sectors) are being enhanced," Modi said.