Abu Dhabi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday began his two-day trip to the UAE by visiting the historic Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque, the world's third largest, and later met Indian workers there.
After his arrival, Modi, on first public engagement here, visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a key place of worship in the UAE and known as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture and described it as a fine example of human achievement and unity.
The Prime Minister, wearing a kurta with a cream and red stole, spent about 40 minutes at the mosque, built at an estimated cost of $545 million, evincing interest at the imposing 82 domes in seven sizes located inside the worshipping place.
He was given a guided tour by minister in waiting for foreign affairs.
"I am delighted to visit this magnificent place of worship, strikes with its size and beauty. It brings together requisite skills and creation from around the world and serves as a fine example of human achievement and unity. I am confident that it will be a symbol of peace, piety, harmony and inclusiveness that are inherent to the faith of Islam," PM Modi wrote on the visitor's book.
"It will also serve to remind generations about the extraordinary vision of the late president of UAE his highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan," he wrote.
UAE culture minister Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and minister of state for foreign affairs Dr Anwar Gargash were present at the mosque and Modi took a selfie with them. Many Indians had come to see Modi at the mosque.
The mosque is third largest in the world after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. It is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.
Later, PM Modi interacted with Indian workers at their camps I-CAD to know the problems they face and discussed ways Indian government can help them.
The I-CAD Residential Labour Camp houses thousands of migrant labourers from the Indian subcontinent in an area spread over one square kilometre.
About 2.6 million Indians constitute nearly 30 per cent of the population of this country.
Notably, a large portion of the 2.6 million Indians in the UAE are from Bihar and many are Muslims.
The first Indian Prime Minister to visit the UAE in 34 years, Modi was earlier today received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi along with his five brothers at the airport, in a departure from protocol. The last dignitary to be received by him was the King of Morocco in May this year.
Ahead of his talks with the Emirati leadership on Monday, Modi said he wanted to see the UAE as India's foremost partner in trade and in countering terrorism, noting that both countries have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including extremism.
"We have a range of common security and strategic concerns in the region, including terrorism and extremism. So India and UAE have everything to be a top priority for each other. This is the way I look at the UAE. The Gulf region is vital for India's economic, energy and security interests," he said in an interview to Khaleej Times.
Apart from discussions with the Crown Prince, who is also the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Modi will also hold talks with Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Monday.
Modi said he was keen to foster a strategic partnership, particularly in the security, energy and investment sectors, with the fastest growing Arab economy and its visionary and pragmatic leadership.
Apart from seeking enhanced cooperation in energy and trade, Modi, during the visit, will reach out to investors to promote India as an attractive business destination.
Visit's focus on trade and investments is also reflected in the fact that managing director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan hosted a dinner in honour of the Prime Minister.
ADIA has $800 billion sovereign funds and India is expected to woo it to attract investments in the infrastructure sector.
India-UAE trade, valued at $180 million (Dirham 660.6 million) per annum in the 1970s, is today around $60 billion, making the UAE, India's third largest trading partner for the year 2014-15 after China and the US.
Marvelling at the UAE's spectacular achievements, Modi said, "I have always thought, how this paradise could come up in a desert? What vision! What remarkable skill!"
After holding talks with the Crown Prince here on Monday, the Prime Minister will fly to Dubai, where he will stay for just few hours, which will be packed with a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed, the vice-president and the Prime Minister of the UAE and a visit to world's tallest tower Burj Khalifa which stands at 2,722 feet and has 154 usable floors.
Before flying back to Delhi, Modi will also address the Indian community at the Dubai Cricket Ground, where over 50,000 expatriates are expected to be present.