Amid a raging debate on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's remarks on 'Hindu' identity, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday stoked the debate further, saying many illustrious families in Arab world have surnames 'al-Hindi', implying that 'Hindu' or 'Hindi' were not identities, confined to a particular religion. Inaugurating India-League of Arab States Media Symposium here she also mentioned that 'Hind' was still a popular name being used by many Arab women.
She, however, assured delegates that there was no change in India's policy of supporting Palestinian cause, expressing concern at the loss of lives in Gaza. She asked both sides to exercise restraint. The minister said India was concerned about the rising militancy, fanaticism in parts of the Arab world and assured Arab nations that New Delhi was committed for greater dialogue during challenging times in various Arab countries.
Maintaining that West Asia was an economic backbone for India, Swaraj said the region accounts for 60% of India's oil and gas requirements and 7 million diaspora in the region send home US $40 billion remittances annually, helping to swell country's forex reserves. She invited Arab businessmen to invest in infrastructure projects in India.
"In this context, the sizable Sovereign Wealth Funds of Gulf countries can offer significant platform for operations of Indian companies and prove to be a game-changer in India's quest for world-class infrastructure," she said.
Swaraj also invoked noted Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawki's famous lines on Mahatma Gandhi to describe the relationship between India and the Arab countries.
"Even during their national Independence movements, India and Arab nationalists maintained close relationship. When Gandhi passed by the Suez Canal on the way back from the Round Table Conference in 1931, Ahmed Shawki, the famous Egyptian poet wrote an entire poem praising him," she said.
Shawki wrote, "Oh sons of Egypt! Raise the Laurel and salute the Indian hero. He is like the apostles in defending right and virtue. He called on Hindus and Islam to intimacy and friendliness".
The Father of the Nation had attended the Conference in London accompanied by leaders like Madan Mohan Malaviya, Muhammad Iqbal and Sir Syed Ali Imam, among others.
Swaraj quoted these lines to emphasise that India and Arab world are not new friends and partners, but their relationship that dates back centuries.
Apart from referring a poetic work, Swaraj also touched upon historical land archaeological links between India and the Arab region.
"Archaeologists have found evidence of trade links between the Harappan civilisation and that of the Dilmun in the Gulf. Some archaeological sites in Sharjah show the ancient links between the Indian continent and the Arabian Peninsula," she said.
The minister said continued trade between the two regions have enriched the two cultures through cuisine, cinema and music, among others.
— With inputs from Agency