Sheikh Mohammed's visit seals the deal for Pakistan-UAE bilateral ties
The kind of protocol that was extended to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Supreme Commander of UAE armed forces is a rare sight in Pakistan.
Upon his arrival at an air base near the capital -- where he was personally recieved by Prime Minister Imran Khan — Sheikh Mohammed was honored with a 21-gun salute. Later, PM Khan, to everyone’s surprise, drove the car to the Prime Minister House — located nearly 20 kilometers away – where Sheikh Mohammed was greeted by an impressive guard of honor, presented by a contingent of three armed forces, and treated to a flypast involving seven JF-17 fighter jets.
Relations between Pakistan and the UAE have always had that special touch. Pakistan holds the historic distinction of being the first country to officially recognize the UAE in 1971, while the latter has been one of Pakistan’s top trading partners for several years. It has invested handsomely in Pakistan’s telecom and banking sectors too and more than 1.4 million Pakistani workers are currently employed in the UAE. Geographic proximity, shared cultural values and centuries-old trade ties between the Makran Coast and the Arabian Gulf have provided a strong foundation for this fraternal relationship.
Ties between the two countries have a very promising future as well. Millions of barrels of oil will be exported to China from Pakistan’s deep-sea port of Gwadar once the pipeline is complete. The UAE could further enhance investments in areas like agriculture and petrochemicals, too. Pakistan has vast areas of virgin lands that could be cultivated through the prudent use of water by applying modern means. This measure alone could guarantee food security for both nations. Additionally, joint defense production is yet another area of cooperation between the two nations. Pakistan has successfully fought a war against terrorism and could share its expertise with its allies, too.
While Pakistanis have played a vital role in the development of infrastructure in the UAE, our Emirati brothers have not lagged behind either when it came to helping Pakistan. From the construction of the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore to the airport in Rahim Yar Khan, there are a number of projects that bear testimony to the fraternal ties shared by the two.
However, the support and assistance received by Pakistan – for reconstruction purposes — in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and the floods in 2010 was even more impressive. Additionally, a UAE government representative — during Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visit’s to Abu Dhabi last year –- said that 165 projects relating to humanitarian assistance, poverty alleviation, health, and education have been completed in Pakistan.
Peace and security in the region are common causes that should be constantly promoted. Moreover, protection of maritime lanes is essential for the promotion of trade. For this purpose, both nations need to develop their navies.
Geographic proximity, shared cultural values and centuries-old trade ties between the Makran Coast and the Arabian Gulf have provided a strong foundation for this fraternal relationship.
With dedicated maritime security ships and personnel, these units should be able to fight all kinds of piracy and terrorist attacks in open waters. The UAE’s investments in joint defense production could, therefore, become an important factor for robust regional security. Moreover, production levels for the JF 17 Thunder could be enhanced for the countries' mutual benefit as well as joint naval exercises and training, for a win-win scenario.
Sheikh Mohammed’s visit took place at a time when our region is witnessing significant developments. The US wants to pull out half of its troops from Afghanistan; Russia and China are proactive in our region; and Pakistan is playing an important role in bringing peace to Afghanistan. During its reconstruction phase, Syria may like to return to the Arab fold as it would require huge amounts of financial aid which only the Gulf states can provide. Pakistan enjoys credibility with the government in Damascus.
What’s more, Pakistan’s tourism sector has not achieved its true potential due to the country’s uncertain security situation in the past decade. All that has vastly changed now and the country could easily open up its northern areas for family tourism, trekking, and other adventure sports. Similarly, students from the UAE could also benefit from top educational institutions in Pakistan such as the Lahore University of Management Sciences, National University of Sciences and Technology, and the Agha Khan University.
Observers have witnessed a fresh warmth and vigor in this relationship between the two countries in recent months. Our brothers in the GCC countries must have realized by now that the new government in Islamabad is more focused on national interest — PM Khan has no personal agenda. The announcement of substantial aid as a balance of payment support and the provision of oil on deferred payments will alleviate some of Pakistan’s immediate financial problems and help it negotiate with the International Monetary Fund with greater confidence. Against this backdrop, the UAE has once again proven that it is Pakistan’s friend in need.
• Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst. Twitter: @hafiz_javed