Saturday Aug 24, 2019
ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) conferred its highest civilian honour to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, as a human rights crisis brews in occupied Kashmir with the Indian government continuing its clampdown in the disputed territory.
Images and video released by the UAE government showed Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan personally putting the gold medal, the Order of Zayed, around Modi's neck.
A portrait of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE's first president after whom the award is named, was displayed on the wall behind them as the two posed for a photograph.
Modi was conferred the award at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi during his first visit to the UAE capital after winning recent elections in India.
The UAE visit of Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi comes as a tense lockdown in occupied Kashmir region continued for the 20th day after India withdrew Article 370 of its Constitution that gave a special status to the disputed territory.
The Muslim-majority disputed Himalayan territory is claimed by both India and Pakistan and both countries have fought three wars over Kashmir since Partition in 1947.
Indian forces have implemented a curfew in the valley since August 5, as fears persisted of large-scale street protests in the main city of Srinagar against India's move to strip the region of its special constitutional status.
Residents in the Muslim-majority region have complained of a stifling environment as well as the inability to get in touch with family and friends worried about their wellbeing.
The Indian government has put in place an extra 500,000 troops to the restive region, imposing a strict communications clampdown since Aug 5.
The near-total communications blackout has triggered global concern, with a group of UN human rights experts warning Thursday it amounted to "collective punishment" and risked exacerbating regional tensions.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, telling him Paris was keeping an eye on the Kashmir region.