Indian opposition party leader Rahul Gandhi to visit UAE

President of the Indian National Congress Party Rahul Gandhi addresses the 48th Congress plenary session in New Delhi on March 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 January 2019

Indian opposition party leader Rahul Gandhi to visit UAE

  • Indian National Congress president starts two-day visit to UAE on Friday
  • The Congress head is also scheduled to meet UAE leaders and officials in the capital Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Rahul Gandhi, the president of India’s leading opposition party, is due to visit the UAE later this week.
The Indian National Congress politician’s two-day trip comes in the run-up to his country’s elections later this year.
Gandhi is expected to arrive in the UAE on Friday and one of his first engagements will be to meet with members of the Indian community living abroad. This will take place at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, where India’s prime minister Narendra Modi addressed the community during a visit in 2015.The Congress head is also scheduled to meet Indian business leaders, university students and visit labor camps during his trip.
Gandhi is also scheduled to meet UAE leaders and officials in the capital Abu Dhabi. 
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Sam Pitroda, chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress that is organizing the visit, said Gandhi’s UAE trip was part of the party’s outreach campaign to more than 20 million non-resident Indians (NRI) across the world.
“These Indians may have left Indian soil but India still lives in their hearts and minds,” Pitroda said. “Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party wants to reconnect them with their motherland so that they can contribute to the welfare of Indian society in different ways.”
Pitroda said large numbers of Indian expatriates had registered to attend the cricket stadium event through the website that has been specially set up for the visit.
“NRIs are an important element in our democracy. Even if they don’t vote, their opinion matters a lot as they can influence their families and communities back home. Hence it is important to interact with them,” Pitroda said.
He added that NRIs played a “crucial role” in shaping his country's political, social and economic canvas.
A US-based NRI himself, Pitroda was a key figure in the telecoms revolution that took place in India during the 1980s.
He said Gandhi’s UAE visit will focus on spreading the party’s message of inclusiveness. “Be it equality, freedom, democracy, faith, culture, communities, Congress believes in including everyone, and that’s the beauty of India,” he said.
Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara, in Dubai, welcomed Gandhi’s visit. “We hope he will perform well and steer our country towards a progressive and a better India.”
Kandhari said he anticipated that Gandhi would encourage young, educated new faces to join the party and hopefully take a leading role in India’s development in the years to come.
Kamran Ziauddin, from Aligarh, who has been living in UAE for more than 18 years, said Gandhi’s UAE visit was crucial coming just months before the country goes to the polls, saying his party offered an alternative solution to the challenges facing India today.
C Uday Bhaskar, director of the Society for Policy Studies in New Delhi, said the 2019 election is being seen as one that will determine the future direction of India.

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

Updated 01 June 2020

From Jeddah to Jerusalem, the faithful return to their mosques

  • Doors open again after virus lockdown
  • Internal flights resume from Saudi airports

JEDDAH/AMMAN: It began at dawn. As the first light appeared on the horizon and the call to Fajr prayer rang out, Muslims from Riyadh to Madinah and Jeddah to Jerusalem returned to their mosques on Sunday after a two-month break that for many was unbearable.

More than 90,000 mosques throughout Saudi Arabia were deep cleaned and sanitized in preparation for the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Worshippers wore face masks, kept a minimum of two meters apart, brought their own prayer mats and performed the ablution ritual at home.

“My feelings are indescribable. We are so happy. Thank God we are back in His house,” said Abdulrahman, 45, at Al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh, where worshippers had their temperatures checked before entering.

Television screens inside the mosque displayed written instructions, including the need to maintain a safe distance from others to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In Jerusalem, at 3:30 a.m. thousands crowded outside three gates assigned to be opened to allow Muslims to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque. Young and old, men and women, many with their phone cameras on, chanted religious songs as they waited to return for the first time since the virus lockdown began.

“Those wishing to pray were checked for their temperature and those without a mask were given one by Waqf staff. All were asked to stay a safe distance from each other when they prayed,” Mazen Sinokrot, a member of the Islamic Waqf, told Arab News.

Wasfi Kailani executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque told Arab News that enabling Muslims to pray in large numbers and according to health requirements had gone smoothly.

“People cooperated with the local Muslim authorities and followed the regulations.” The people of Jerusalem had shown a high degree of responsibility, he said.

Israeli police spokesman Miky Rosenfeld told Arab News that extra police units had been  mobilized in the old city of Jerusalem for the reopening of Al-Aqsa. 

“People arrived in the areas scheduled according to health and security guidelines,” he said.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, a former Minister for Jerusalem in the Ismael Haniyeh government in 2006, said people were happy to be able to pray once more at Islam’s third-holiest site.

“It is time to open a new page in cooperation with local institutions and with Jordan to regain all that has been lost over the years,” he told Arab News.

“The Waqf council has done a good job in dealing with the contradictions and pressures that they are under, which is like walking on a knife’s edge as they deal with the occupiers on the one hand and the health situation on the other, while also trying to be responsive to the desires of worshippers.”

Elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, commercial flights took to the air again, office staff returned to work and restaurants resumed serving diners as life began a gradual return to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eleven of the Kingdom’s 28 airports opened on Sunday for the first time since March 21. “The progressive and gradual reopening aims at controlling the crowds inside airports because we want to achieve the highest health efficiency,” civil aviation spokesman Ibrahim bin Abdullah Alrwosa told Arab News.

No one without an e-ticket will be allowed into an airport, face masks must be worn and safe distancing observed, and children under 15 may not travel unaccompanied.