• Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in the United Arab Emirates on his seventh trip to the nation.
  • Modi and Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan signed bilateral agreements and discussed improving ties, including a bilateral investment treaty and energy issues.
  • Modi’s visit coincided with clashes between Indian police and farmers demanding guaranteed prices for crops in New Delhi.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday on his seventh trip to the nation, preparing to be feted by tens of thousands of his compatriots ahead of elections to be held in his country in the coming months.

Modi was greeted upon landing in Abu Dhabi by Emirates President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a man he has repeatedly called his brother as he worked to strengthen ties between the Arabian Peninsula nation, home to millions of Indians. The two leaders walked past an honor guard before sitting down for their meeting, in which bilateral agreements were signed between the nations.

Modi praised “our closeness and how we have made progress in all fields.”

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He added: “Brother, it is also a matter of happiness that we are going to sign a bilateral investment treaty. This will also have a lasting impact.”

Narendra Modi

Flower petals are thrown to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrives to address a public rally in Guwahati, India, February 4, 2024. Modi arrived in the United Arab Emirates on his seventh trip to the nation. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

The two sides also discussed energy issues. India remains a key buyer of Emirati oil and is now considering the possibility of also purchasing liquefied natural gas from the United Arab Emirates, according to a statement from the Indian delegation.

The United Arab Emirates offered no immediate information about the trip or what the two men discussed.

On Tuesday night, tens of thousands of Indians are expected to crowd into the Zayed Sports City stadium to see Modi. Only Indian citizens were allowed to attend the event in Abu Dhabi, organizers said.

Modi’s arrival came as Indian police on Tuesday used tear gas and detained some farmers who clashed with them and tried to break barricades, blocking their path to New Delhi to demand guaranteed crop prices. In 2021, farmers camped for months in the Indian capital after Modi withdrew controversial farm laws that had sparked earlier protests.

The protests could pose a major challenge to Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of upcoming elections in India, the world’s largest democracy. However, Modi is widely expected to win a third term.

Of the more than 9 million people living in the UAE, India estimates that more than 3.5 million are Indian expatriates, making them the largest national group of people in the country, outnumbering even the Emirati citizens. While many are low-paid workers, there are a growing number of white-collar professionals and multiple generations of Indian families.

Modi’s visit highlights long-standing economic and historical ties between the nations, from spice selling and gold smuggling in the UAE’s formative years to annual bilateral trade worth tens of billions of dollars today.

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The countries signed a free trade agreement in 2022 aimed at doubling their bilateral trade to $100 billion. The countries agreed to allow India to make some payments in rupees instead of dollars, reducing transaction costs.

The relationship also underlines the Emirates’ realpolitik foreign policy. The United Arab Emirates has embraced Modi as Muslims in India are increasingly targeted by Hindu nationalist groups. Modi received the Emirates’ top civilian honor in 2019, even as he stripped the disputed Muslim-majority Kashmir region of statehood.

Modi’s original visit to the Emirates in 2015 was the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years.

Modi will also address the World Government Summit in Dubai and inaugurate a new stone-carved Hindu temple near Abu Dhabi on Wednesday while in the United Arab Emirates. She will then travel to Qatar.

By Sam