Hindi may be official in UAE, but most Indians there speak Malayalam

Indians comprise over 26 lakh of the population in the UAE

abu-dhabi-wikimedia-commons Abu Dhabi city | Wikimedia Commons

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has declared Hindi as its third official language to be used in courts, alongside Arabic and English. The move is an acknowledgement of the large number of Indians who live and work in the desert nation. There are over 26 lakh Indians in the UAE, making up to 30 per cent of the population and forming the largest expatriate community. The Abu Dhabi judicial department said that the move was aimed to ensure Hindi speakers learned the litigation procedures, and their rights and duties without a language barrier, in addition to facilitating registration procedures via unified forms.

The move is ostensibly a step taken to further bilateral ties that have strengthened in recent years. During Narendra Modi's visit to the UAE in 2018, a ground-breaking ceremony for a Hindu temple was held. Crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed granted 13.7 acres of land for its construction, and it is reported that an additional 13 acres have been allowed for parking. The foundation stone is likely to be laid in April. Construction is likely to commence this year. 

However, interestingly, many of the Indians living and working in the UAE are not native Hindi speakers. Almost half of them are from Kerala, where Malayalam is the language spoken. Tamils rank second. The remaining are from various other parts of the country. 

The lawmakers in Abu Dhabi may not have gone into the details of India's language mix. The move, though, is a strong show of cementing ties. In recent weeks, India had good help from the UAE government in extraditing people wanted by investigating authorities in india. These include Christian Michel, one of the middle men wanted in connection with the Agusta-Westland chopper deal case, as well as Rajiv Saxena, a co-accused in the scam. Most recently, it also extradited Prabhjot Singh, wanted for murder by the Punjab police. It is said that the extraditions were facilitated in a swap, with India sending back the UAE Princess Latifa, who was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard while attempting to flee her plush but inhibited life.