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Why UAE's 'Hello Modi' Will Be Unusual

By Archis Mohan
January 10, 2024 14:04 IST
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The effort is to make the PM's interaction with the diaspora at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Sports city stadium on February 13 the largest he has addressed.

IMAGE: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan inspects a guard of honour with Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi beside him in Ahmedabad, January 9, 2024 Photograph: ANI Photo

Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi will visit the United Arab Emirates next month -- likely his last foreign visit before the Lok Sabha polls -- and the highlight is set to be his address to the Indian diaspora at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Sports city stadium on February 13. The event has been named 'Ahlan Modi', or 'Hello Modi'.

The event organisers told Business Standard that their effort is to make the PM's interaction with the diaspora the largest he has addressed since his first such at New York's Madison Square Garden in September 2014, which was attended by about 20,000 people.

"Nearly 20,000 people have registered for the event since we opened the registrations on January 6. There is immense interest to attend the event among the 3.5 million strong Indian diaspora in the UAE and from Bahrain and other Gulf countries," said a key member of the organising team, who didn't want to be identified.

The stadium seats nearly 50,000. The organisers are discussing with the administrators to ensure maximum seating.

"The PM's biggest diaspora event was his address at London's Wembley Stadium (in November 2015). We hope 'Ahlan Modi' would be comparable," said a Bharatiya Janata Party leader associated with organising the event.

During the UAE visit, the PM will also inaugurate the BAPS Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi on February 14.

IMAGE: People hold cut outs and placards as they wait for Prime Minister Modi and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan's roadshow in Ahmedabad, January 9, 2024. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

Modi's UAE visit will likely be the last he undertakes abroad during his current tenure as India's prime minister.

Five years ago, in the months leading up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the PM embarked on only one foreign visit between January 1 and May, to South Korea on February 21. His last recent visit abroad was also to the UAE to attend the UN Climate Change Conference from November 30-December 1, 2023.

The visit to the UAE will be his seventh since 2015, when he became the first Indian prime minister in 34 years to visit the Gulf country. The PM also visited the UAE in July 2023, during which the two countries signed an agreement to set up a campus of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Delhi), which is set to launch its first master's programme this month.

According to a statement from the event's organising committee, 350 community leaders representing different regions and communities met at a briefing about the event on January 3 in Abu Dhabi and set up hundreds of volunteer committees.

The organisers said Modi's frequent visits to the UAE have strengthened bilateral relations, which can be seen in the diverse Indian diaspora, which no longer comprises only blue-collar workers.

There is a sizeable presence of Indians who trade with Africa with offices in Dubai and executives working in the banking, petrochemicals and other sectors. The diaspora comprises Indians from across the country, including Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states.

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Archis Mohan in New Delhi
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