DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – India's prime minister gave a rousing speech to tens of thousands of Indian expatriates in Dubai on Monday, telling them leaders in the United Arab Emirates have promised to invest $75 billion in India and back its bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council.
Narendra Modi is the first Indian prime minister to visit the UAE in 34 years. He wrapped up his two-day visit with the speech at the Dubai Cricket Stadium to an estimated 50,000 Indians, among them a diverse crowd of Muslims and Hindus, who work and live in the Arab country.
With around 2.6 million Indians living in the UAE, Indians not only outnumber the local Emirati population, but also comprise around a third of the total population in the UAE, a federation of seven emirates that includes Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"The UAE said that they will support India in our bid for a permanent seat for the UN Security Council," he told the audience as they erupted in applause and cheers, many waving the Indian flag. "India should get the permanent seat in the Security Council."
Hours before the speech, Modi met Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Modi said in his speech at the stadium that the crown prince vowed that the UAE would invest $75 billion in India.
The money would be distributed through the establishment of the UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund, which will support the building of railways, ports, roads, airports and industrial corridors, according to a joint statement released by the crown prince and Modi.
They also agreed to boost trade by 60 percent over the next five years. India is the UAE's second-largest trading partner and the UAE is India's third largest, behind the U.S. and China, according to the Indian Embassy. Trade between India and the UAE reached $60 billion last year.
The joint statement said the visit by the Indian prime minister marks the beginning of a new and comprehensive partnership between the UAE and India.
"In the past, relations between the two governments have not kept pace with the exponential growth in relations between their people or the promise of this partnership," the statement said, adding that the pair agreed to "chart a new course in their partnership."
They also agreed to strengthen defense cooperation through regular exercises and training, and manufacturing defense equipment in India.
Modi, who has come under fire for his party's links to hard-line Hindu groups, kicked off his visit on Sunday with a tour of Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, where he also visited the grave of the country's founder.
Modi, a Hindu like most of India's 1.2 billion people, has long had an uneasy relationship with his country's roughly 120 million Muslims. His nationalist Hindu party swept elections and he was sworn in as prime minister in May of last year.
Modi wrote on this official Twitter account Sunday that the UAE government agreed to allot land for a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi, which he called "a great step." There is already one Hindu temple in nearby Dubai.
Modi toured Masdar City, the site of a renewable energy and sustainable technology project in Abu Dhabi, and also met with members of the UAE's wealthy Indian business community on Monday.
Annual Indian remittances from the UAE are estimated at $14 billion. Indians are among the largest investors in UAE real estate, and have helped make Dubai International the busiest airport globally for international transit passengers, with more than 950 weekly flights between the two countries.
However, the Indian Embassy says that half of the 2.6 million Indians working in the UAE are lower-wage migrant laborers. Many hold construction jobs, building the UAE's dazzling skyscrapers and shopping centers.
On Sunday, Modi visited a labor camp in Abu Dhabi where 50,000 migrant workers live, around 40 percent of them Indian. He met briefly with a few hundred Indian workers at the camp, shaking hands and listening to their struggles and requests, including lifting transfer taxes on remittances.