Modi awarded UAE highest civilian honour amid occupied Kashmir crackdown
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi received the United Arab Emirates’ highest civilian honour during a visit on Saturday to the oil-rich Gulf nation, reinforcing ties between the countries even as he faces criticism over stripping occupied Kashmir of its autonomy.
The induction of Modi into the Order of Zayed shows the importance the UAE places on India, the world’s third-largest consumer of crude oil. India is home to a rapidly growing consumer market and labor pool that the federation of sheikhdoms relies on for its own economy.
Activists, however, decried the UAE bestowing the award on Modi as he pursues a clampdown on the Himalayan region, saying it only gives cover to India amid the Kashmir crackdown.
“With several Gulf states in an ever-tightening embrace with Modi, human rights have been discarded in favour of economic opportunities,” wrote Samah Hadid, a Beirut-based human rights advocate.
“India has not only escaped international condemnation for its actions, it is even shoring up support from Muslim allies,” said Hadid. “The plight of Kashmiris will not only be silenced by India’s clampdown but also the apathy of those who long claimed to speak for them.”
Hours after the UAE awarded Narendra Modi its highest civilian honour, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani cancelled a scheduled visit to the Gulf nation.
According to an announcement issued by the Senate secretariat, the chairman decided to cancel his trip in the backdrop of Modi’s recent visit to the UAE.
“Pakistan strongly supports the freedom movement of Kashmiri people, while the Modi government is subjecting Kashmiri Muslims to extreme oppression and a curfew is imposed [in the occupied Kashmir],” read the statement.
“Under the given circumstances, a visit to the UAE would hurt the sentiments of Kashmiri mothers, sisters and old people. So, the chairman cancelled the visit of a parliamentary delegation, led by him,” it added.
Modi is also to travel to Bahrain to become the first Indian premier to visit the island nation.
Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, personally put the golden medal around Modi’s neck during an event that was closed to press in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital. With a portrait of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s first president for whom the order is named, behind them, the two men shook and held hands for a moment and spoke quietly.
“You deserve it,” Sheikh Mohammed told Modi at one point while posing for photos.