The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has decided to confer the country's highest civilian award "The Order of Zayed" on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for boosting bilateral relations between the two countries.
The announcement was made by Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and also by the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.
The Crown Prince described Modi as a "dear friend" and said he had played a pivotal role in enhancing bilateral ties.
"We have historical and comprehensive strategic ties with India, reinforced by the pivotal role of my dear friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave these relations a big boost. In appreciation of his efforts, the UAE President grants him the Zayed Medal," the Crown Prince said in a tweet.
Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to receive the award, officials said. He has already been conferred with Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honour -- the King Abdulaziz Sash. The award, named after Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the modern Saudi state, was presented to Modi during his visit to the country in 2016.
Modi has also become the first Indian Prime Minister to receive the highest civilian awards of both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, officials said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj expressed happiness at the award announcement and said India now had the best-ever relations with the Islamic world and that Modi had played a stellar role in ushering in a new era of strategic partnership with the UAE.
She said in a series of tweets that it was an honour for the people of India and described Modi as "a great son of India".
"I am extremely happy to welcome the announcement of Order of Zayed for a great son of India, Prime Minister Naendra Modi, by His Highness Mohamed Bin Zayed.
"This is in recognition of Prime Minister's stellar role in ushering in a new era of strategic partnership with UAE and the best ever relations with the Islamic world.
"On behalf of the people of India, I express our deep sense of gratitude to His Highness the President, His Highness the Crown Prince of UAE for this great honour. With this, you have honoured India and the people of India," Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the "singular honour" of conferment of "The Order of Zayed" on the Prime Minister was in recognition of the efforts of the government under his leadership to develop the strategic partnership between India and the UAE.
"We greatly appreciate this honour bestowed upon the Prime Minister by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed and the Government of the UAE. The UAE is home to the largest number of our citizens outside India, and is our partner in diverse pillars of cooperation, including investment, energy, defence and security," Kumar said.
Modi is expected to visit the UAE to receive the award.
Answering queries, Kumar said that India and the UAE have a strategic partnership and exchange of high-level visits is an important component of such a partnership.
"As and when the next visit is planned, we will share the details as per the established norms," he said.
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