Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate a Hindu temple today during a state visit to the UAE.
The ceremony will take place in Abu Dhabi where PM Modi will also meet with Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed among other officials. The BAPS Hindu Mandir temple will be the first in Abu Dhabi and by far the largest in the UAE, with construction costs estimated in the range of $100 million.
This will be Modi’s seventh visit to the UAE since 2015 and third in the last eight months, underlining the importance of the Indian diaspora in the UAE to Modi’s Hindu-nationalist base. Indians living in the UAE make up around 38% of the population. Modi has sought to broaden his popularity within the Hindu base of his party, opening several temples in India, some on sites of former mosques. Modi’s visit to this temple opening, is crucial this year because it is an election year, Modi will be looking to win an unprecedented 3rd term in office.
The opening of the temple in Abu Dhabi is exemplary of Modi’s efforts to make Hinduism the de-facto Indian state religion, even though it is a secular state. Short to medium term, expect this trip to produce stronger support for Modi’s candidacy for premiership in this year’s election. Long-term, expect this inauguration to strengthen UAE-Indian cultural ties.