In what can be seen as a bid to strengthen ties with the Gulf region that is home to a large population of expatriates, India has invited Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to be the chief guest at next year’s Republic Day celebrations.
“We hope 2 welcome a dear friend of India, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, as Republic Day 2017 Chief Guest,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted on Sunday evening.
After Act East, India has been following a policy of Think West encompassing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that are home to around seven million expatriate Indians, most of whom are blue collar workers involved in the infrastructure sector.
This honour to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), of which Abu Dhabi is the biggest constituent, and is home to around two million expatriate Indians comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to it in August last year.
The Prime Minister addressed a huge diaspora rally at the Dubai Cricket Stadium during the visit.
The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
This year, Modi visited Saudi Arabia where he was conferred with that Gulf nation’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash, and then Iran soon thereafter.
The last time a leader from the Gulf region graced the Republic Day as chief guest was when then King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud visited India in 2006.