First Indian-American Senator at Expo 2020 Dubai for cultural exchange between US, UAE
Dubai: A Dubai-born New York Senator has lauded the UAE for playing a key role in keeping the world safer in ways probably not known globally.
“The UAE has been doing a lot of things behind the scenes that the world does not know about, especially when it comes to anti-terrorism, to keep the world safer,” New York State Senator Kevin Thomas told Gulf News in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
Hailing peaceful coexistence of people in the UAE, Thomas said: “Coexistence is the reason why the UAE is our strong partner here in the Middle East…And it was my way of honouring that friendship to declare December 2 as Emirati Day [in New York] among other things [in recognition of the UAE’s 50th anniversary].”
Thomas, the first Indian-American as well as the first South Asian lawmaker in the Empire State’s history, was speaking during his visit to Expo 2020 Dubai. Representing New York’s 6th Senate District, he is leading a New York delegation to attend the global cultural exchange at the Expo.
Accompanying him are Senators James Skoufis (Hudson Valley), John Liu (Queens) and Gustavo Rivera (Bronx).
“We are here to strengthen ties between the US, especially New York and the UAE since I’m a legislator from there,” said Thomas, who grew up in Dubai till he was 10.
He recalled leaving the UAE for the US in 1995 when the country was a lot more of a desert land. As a young Indian expat child from Kerala, Thomas said, he would not have imagined about the country’s exponential growth at that time.
“I wouldn’t have imagined it, but at the same time, you know, there are things that were happening behind the scenes that no one knew of…And all these plans [ of massive development] were still in the making… And you know, when I came back, I couldn’t recognise the old places that I lived in Satwa.”
“It’s just amazing to see this, again, because the UAE, it’s about coexistence, given how many different nationalities are here. If you look at New York, it’s similar. Look at the United States. It’s a melting pot. And this coexistence is the reason why the UAE is our strong partner here in the Middle East. It’s just amazing that it has been able to do so much in 50 years, and there’s going to be even more going ahead in the next 50.”
He said it was a great honour for him to be in Dubai to partake in the Expo.
“Everyone keeps talking about the Expo and I had to be here and the UAE Consulate [in New York] and the embassy in [Washington] DC made sure that I was able to partake in all of these…which is great.”
He said the delegation would “meet with ministers and other high Emirati officials to discuss the relationship that they have with the United States, and how to better strengthen it, whether it’s through the culture, talking about the Expo, and what more we can do.”
Thomas said it was an honour to meet Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi at the UAE Pavilion, which sits at the heart of the Expo.
“The pavilion symbolises the UAE’s identity and pioneering spirit,” he said.
The delegation met Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi, head of the Parliamentary Division of the Federal National Council and also toured the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque along with Dr Yousef Al Obaidli, director-general of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre in Abu Dhabi and the director-general of the Founder’s Memorial for the late Sheikh Zayed, founding father of the UAE.
He said the delegation and the minister of culture discussed plans to boost cultural exchange.
“We were talking about how we can exchange cultures, and maybe bring some UAE culture to New York, like plays, music, art. That kind of an exchange we want to try and do in the next coming years… We also talked about how we need to open our eyes to different things, so that we can live together in peace.”
He said the Consul General of the UAE in New York Amna Binzaal Almheiri “is doing a lot of great work in promoting the UAE in New York.”
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