Pakistan-UAE relations: Beyond a transactional relationship

Pakistan-UAE relations: Beyond a transactional relationship

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In the 21st century, diplomacy and international relations are more evolved than ever before, with states shifting their alignments and re-adjusting their alliances on a much broader continuum. The range of the spectrum is from economy to culture and everything in between. This paradigm shift is people-centric and mutual interest dependent. The Middle East is no exception, where old conflicts are being resolved for the greater good of the people, new relationships are being forged in order to benefit larger goals, and the prevalence of goodwill is creating ripples of peace and harmony among shareholders in the region and beyond. Having said this, the Pakistan-UAE relationship has always been people-centric, and for more than 70 years, the two have fostered a fortified bond of friendship which is multidimensional and includes trade and commerce, art and culture, and above all faith and religion.

According to data directly provided to me by Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, the UAE remains Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with an average annual trade of $8 billion. In 2021-22, Pakistan-UAE bilateral trade increased by 25.40 percent as compared to the previous year, amounting to $10.60 billion. Trade figures between Pakistan and UAE this year are also very encouraging. For the two months of January-February 2023, trade figures crossed over $1 billion, with food and textile as major export items to UAE.

There are more than 1.6 million Pakistanis working in the UAE in diverse fields. They consist of skilled and unskilled workers, professionals, and entrepreneurs. They are valued and recognized in the country due to their hard work, dedication, and their positive contribution to the development of the country.

The Pakistan-UAE relationship has always been people-centric, and for more than 70 years, the two have fostered a fortified bond of friendship which is multidimensional and includes trade and commerce, art and culture, and above all faith and religion. 

- Shazia Anwer Cheema

Pakistan and UAE enjoy strong fraternal relations since the inception of the UAE. The foundation of strong relations was laid down by His Highness (Late) Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and further strengthened by close contact and bonds between the people of our two countries. Strong people-to-people relations are based on common faith and culture, which make the ties deeper and stronger. Pakistanis consider UAE their second home and celebrate cultural and religious events and festivals together. They are familiar with and appreciate each other’s customs, traditions, and cuisines. Pakistan and UAE have cultural and educational collaborations, exchange of business delegations, and regular sports and cultural events. These collaborations and events have provided a platform for people of both countries to learn and know more about each other resulting in stronger ties.

It’s true that the UAE provides a huge chunk of the Pakistan workforce with a market and humanitarian support, but the relationship is far more layered than this. Outside of this transactional relationship, Pakistan has become popular as a country of rich culture and history, beautiful landscapes, art, popular music and sports. Pakistani cultural and sports events are held frequently in the UAE with a strong fanbase of Emiratis and expats from all over the world. Pakistani businesses and professionals have a strong presence in the UAE, and contribute immensely to its diverse and multicultural society.

This people-centric diplomacy which many people are looking forward to now, has always been at the very core of the UAE-Pakistan relationship, which is based on mutual respect and goodwill. The continuum of steady cooperation between both countries will further strengthen their friendship and provide opportunities to facilitate the people of both countries.

- The writer is an author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She can be reached at @ShaziaAnwerCh Email: [email protected]

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