Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to receive the UAE’s highest civilian award amid accusations of human rights abuses levelled against Indian forces in Kashmir.
The Hindu nationalist leader will visit the Gulf for three days UAE for three days beginning on 23 August. He will also travel to Bahrain for bilateral talks.
“Prime Minister Modi would receive the Order of Zayed, the highest civil decoration of the UAE which was conferred earlier in April 2019 in recognition of the distinguished leadership of Prime Minister Modi for giving a big boost to bilateral relations between the two countries,” read a statement from India’s external affairs ministry released on Sunday.
“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.”
The statement added that Modi will meet with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed for talks.
The prime minister’s visit to the Gulf comes amid heightened global attention on Indian-administered Kashmir, which was controversially stripped of its autonomous status by New Dehli earlier this month.
India followed up the move with a communications blackout in Kashmir, while also restricting movement in the region.
At least 4,000 people have been arrested and held under India’s Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law allowing authorities to jail someone for up to two years without charge, aid the unrest triggered by Modi’s decision.
Police have also deployed tear gas and pellet guns against protesters.
Arab states have been accused of remaining mostly silent on the issue, with analysts putting this down to the $100 billion in annual trade between Gulf Arab countries and India.
Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman have not issued any statements over the issue, while Saudi Arabia has simply urged restraint and expressed concern.
The UAE has been supportive of India, calling the decision to downgrade Kashmir’s status an “internal matter”, despite the international dispute between Pakistan and India over the region.
The UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed al-Banna, said that the changes in Kashmir “would improve social justice and security… and further stability and peace”.