'Has UAE lost it?' Emirati plan to award Modi amid Kashmir crackdown lambasted
The United Arab Emirates' plan to award Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with its highest civilian honour as his government cracks down on Kashmir has unleashed a storm of criticism.
Modi is set to visit the UAE on Friday and he will then travel on to Bahrain.
His visit comes as he faces international pressure for placing seven million Kashmiris under draconian restrictions and detaining thousands in an attempt to place the territory under total Indian rule.
Despite the Indian government's unilateral move to annex Kashmir, which was met with widespread outrage, Abu Dhabi has seen fit to hand Modi the Order of Zayed when he touches down.
The juxtaposition of honouring the Indian premier as his government is accused of a violent crackdown has not been lost on social media users, however.
Earlier this month the Indian government suddenly locked down Kashmir, enforcing a communications blackout, state-wide curfew and shutdown of the press.
Thousands of people, including politicians both critical and supportive of Modi's Hindu nationalist government, have been subjected to house raids and arrests.
Online, people are lambasting Muslim-majority countries, particularly in the Middle East, for remaining mostly silent on the measures.
The muted response has been attributed to the Gulf Arab countries' $100bn in annual trade with India, making New Delhi an important economic partner.
The award was first announced in April, when Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed revealed it was being handed to the Indian premier for boosting relations.
In response, British Labour MP Naz Shah wrote a letter to Mohammed bin Zayed urging him to reconsider honouring Modi.
“Modi has placed the people of Jammu and Kashmir into a complete lockdown for the last 15 days, with the shutdown of telecommunications, internet and other sources of communications,” she wrote.
“To grant such recognition to an individual who is oppressing the Kashmiri people in the name of Sheikh Zayed, not only questions the value of this previously prestigious title, misrepresents his legacy but also forces the world to debate the nature of your moral conscious.”
Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Bahrain when he travels on to Manama.
Indians make up one of the largest expatriate communities in Bahrain, with estimates suggesting that up to 350,000 live in the island kingdom.