Alwaght- The United Arab Emirate (UAE) has awarded its highest civilian honor to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sparking outrage among rights activists over New Delhi's clampdown in the Muslim-majority Kashmir region, Al Jazeera reported.
Modi was presented the Order of Zayed medal by the UAE's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, during a visit to the capital Abu Dhabi on Saturday, reinforcing ties between the two countries.
Sheikh Mohammed personally put the golden medal around Modi's neck, with a portrait of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE's first president after whom the order is named, behind them.
The two men shook and held hands for a moment and spoke quietly. "You deserve it," Sheikh Mohammed told the Hindu nationalist leader at one point while posing for photos.
India, the world's third-largest consumer of crude oil, is home to a rapidly growing consumer market and labor pool that the oil-rich Persian Gulf state relies on for its economy.
'Disregard of human rights'
But the award came as Modi's government maintains tight security restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir after stripping the region of special autonomy.
Through a presidential decree on August 5, India revoked a decades-old special status, which granted rights to Kashmir to make its own constitution and autonomy to make laws, and deployed thousands of troops to the region.
The Himalayan valley has been under a sweeping military curfew since then that has seen thousands arrested and residents cut off from all communication and the internet.
Although Modi's decision affects Muslims living in Indian-administered Kashmir, the move has drawn a largely muted response from Gulf Arab nations.
The UAE's ambassador to India in particular referred to Kashmir as an internal issue for India.
"With several Gulf states in an ever-tightening embrace with Modi, human rights have been discarded in favor of economic opportunities," wrote Samah Hadid, a Beirut-based human rights advocate.
"India has not only escaped international condemnation for its actions, it is even shoring up support from Muslim allies," she added. "The plight of Kashmiris will not only be silenced by India's clampdown but also the apathy of those who long claimed to speak for them."
In an open letter to Sheikh Mohammed, British parliamentarian Naz Shah from the Labour party asked him to reconsider giving the award due to the "brutality" she described Modi as directing.
"I ask you to question this decision and reconsider giving such an award, not only because the majority of the Kashmiri people share the same faith as you, but because we have a duty as human beings to stand up against the disregard of human rights and evil," Shah wrote.
Modi is due to travel to Bahrain later on Saturday to become the first Indian prime minister to visit the island nation.