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UAE-Pakistan: A Strategic Partnership

* Dr. Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan value their friendship and fraternal ties based on brotherhood, mutual respect and deep-rooted cultural affinities and identity of interests have continued to move from strength to strength since inception. UAE and Pakistan are bound by common threads to their religious and cultural values and their strong historical relations are based on a solid foundation laid down by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Bilateral relations between two countries have further enhanced with the recent official visit of Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. During his day long visit to brotherly country UAE, he met with various high officials and talked on diverse issues of mutual interest.  Prime Minister Imran Khan and Crown Prince Shiekh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan have agreed to transform UAE- Pakistan relations into a long-term strategic economic partnership.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by a high level delegation comprising Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, and Minister for Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan, Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood and Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The Prime Minister was received by His Highness Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan and accorded a ceremonial reception at the Presidential Palace. In Dubai, the Prime Minister was received by His Highness Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Prime Minister Khan also visited Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Martyrs' Memorial where he paid homage to Emirati heroes who had sacrificed in the service of their nation.

The delegation level talks with Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Muhmmad bin Zayed focused on all areas of bilateral, regional, and global interest. Both leaders expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of relations and agreed to take immediate measures to further elevate their historic partnership. They resolved to strengthen trade and economic ties and eliminate all  impediments to seamless flow of trade and investment between the two countries.

They expressed satisfaction over the fruitful outcome of the visit of the high-level UAE economic delegation to Pakistan recently and reiterated their resolve to transform the existing special relations into a Strategic Long-Term Economic Partnership by adopting a direct, transparent and time bound approach.

The two sides agreed to chalk out a comprehensive roadmap to accelerate cooperation and partnership in areas encompassing trade, investment, economic development, energy, infrastructure and agriculture., with a view to accrue early dividends from the economic partnership.

Prime Minister Khan and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed decided to hold the next Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission, to be co-chaired by the respective Foreign Ministers in Abu Dhabi in February 2019.

They further reaffirmed their commitment to hold the Senior Officials' Bilateral Political Consultations between the Foreign Ministries and fast track finalization of pending agreements at the earliest.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the on-going defence and security cooperation, and resolved to explore further collaboration in the areas of training, joint exercises and defence production.

The two leaders noted that a key element of partnership between the two countries was the complete identity of views on regional and global importance. They reiterated their strong belief that only by espousing the principles of tolerance, inclusivity, non-interference and focusing on a people centric development agenda can the region attain sustainable peace and stability.

They strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and expressed their resolve to work closely to root out this scourge. The Crown Prince recognized the efforts and unparalleled sacrifices made by Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and extremism.

The two sides also agreed to further strengthen their cooperation to deal with transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.

Prime Minister Imran Khan paid rich tribute to the founder and first President of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for his foresight and visionary leadership and his contribution towards laying the foundation of Pakistan-UAE friendship. Sheikh Zayed, the Prime Minister recalled, was a sincere friend of Pakistan, who had great love in his heart for Pakistan and its people. The people of Pakistan reciprocated this love, and continue to hold Sheikh Zayed and the leadership of the UAE in high esteem.

The Prime Minister further lauded the progress achieved by the UAE in fostering tolerance, inclusive economic development, innovation, and youth and women empowerment. In particular, he appreciated UAE's success in promoting tourism, and leveraging technology for improved governance.

Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked the UAE and its leadership for their continued commitment to Pakistan's socioeconomic development in the shape of Pakistan Assistance Programme. He specifically thanked His Highness Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan for his support to eradicate polio from Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed the UAE leadership about his government's people centric reform agenda including the steps being taken to eliminate corruption and promote transparency and accountability at all levels of government.

Pakistan reiterated its readiness to actively participate in Expo 2020 and extend full support to the UAE in making this mega event a great success. Pakistan offered UAE the services of its IT professionals and skilled labour, in preparing for Expo 2020.

Acknowledging the contribution of Pakistani professionals as well as skilled and unskilled workers in the development of UAE, the two sides agreed to enhance cooperation on all labour related issues.

This was the second visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the UAE in as many months. The visit underscored the strength and substance of the Pakistan-UAE special relationship, which is based on the spirit of mutual affection and deep trust, and rooted in age old civilizational, religious, cultural and commercial affinities.

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his sincere appreciation for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his delegation. He reiterated his invitation to H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to visit Pakistan on mutually convenient dates. His Highness happily accepted the invitation.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan has asked the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a deferred payment facility for the import of oil. Pakistan’s side requested to get increased agricultural exports especially rice and fruits citrus and mangoes. Setting up a state-of-the-art LNG terminal in Pakistan with UAE's cooperation was also discussed during the meeting. The Emirati delegation expressed interest in setting up an LNG terminal in Pakistan. A member of Emirati real estate company Emaar took keen interest to invest in different diverse sectors of Pakistan. UAE holds expertise in water desalination and if they could invest in setting up a plant in Karachi or Gwadar, Pakistan’s water crisis will be resolved and it will be a massive development.

Business community in the country has hoped that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tour to United Arab Emirates (UAE) would not only help Pakistan boost its exports but would also explore new avenues of bilateral trade. It is hoped that if steps are taken in the right direction, the current trade volume of $8 billion between Pakistan and UAE would be surpassed in coming years. It is important to build on the historic relationship between the two countries by encouraging investors on both sides to make use of the business opportunities.

Both countries have strong and strategic alliance. More than 1.6 million Pakistani community (the biggest Pakistani community in the world) lives and works in the UAE. Their remittances from working in the UAE amount to $433.42 million (Dh1.59 billion) annually. Moreover, Pakistan’s private sector has invested in Dubai’s real estate sector. According to Pakistan official figure UAE investments in Pakistan stand at more than $3.9 billion. Pakistan exports $869 million worth of goods to the UAE, and imports goods worth $7.5 billion in return. Pakistan’s exports to UAE include mainly rice, textiles and leather, which do not signify the true potential of opportunities between the two countries.

Now, it seems that the bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan have acquired new dimensions at all political, economic and social levels emerging into trust-worthy strategic partnership. UAE has been one of the biggest investors in Pakistan for the last so many years which surely encouraged investment and helped greater trade and commerce activities.

Pakistan offers vast opportunities for foreign direct investments and joint ventures in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural based industries, insurance and real estate. Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with United Arab Emirates. Both countries have cooperated with each other in their need of hour. UAE has made huge investments in Pakistan in different fields, and in reciprocate, Pakistan also cooperated with UAE in various fields. Pakistan trained pilots of UAE and in other sectors as well. 

United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan are strategic partners. Due to rapidly changing socio-economic scenarios and geopolitical trends in terms of global trade wars, economic protectionism, disintegration of economic blocs, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, CPEC and BRI it is the need of the hour that both brotherly countries must re-establish functional strategic partnership for the further strengthening of socio-economic integration, greater food and energy security, better political understanding and above all energy cooperation in the days to come.  

United Arab Emirates has celebrated its 51 national day on December 2, 2018. Economics of   UAE-Pakistan bilateral relations is based on a strategic partnership owing to which both countries have been assisting each other in different sectors of survival and production in the past.

UAE has been one of the main investors in the country in its different sectors i.e. infrastructure, real estate industry, banking, telecommunications, insurance, aviation and the last but not the least energy. According to official figures, UAE has more than GDP of $ 450 billion, 30 percent of which is generated from export of oil and petroleum products, while 70 per cent of the revenue is being earned from tourism, transport, plastic industry, renewable sources of energy and financial services etc. Its macro-economy prospects of 2018 and beyond are very strong and bright. A number of UAE companies are currently operating in the country, including Emirates National Oil Company, International Petroleum Investment Company, Etisalat, Dana Gas, Al Ghurair, Emaar, DP World, Abraaj Capital, Thani, Danata, Atharihra Agricultural Company, Julfar, Emirates Investment Group, and Arab Company for Packaging and Al Nasser Holdings.

UAE’s free economic zones are proving ample opportunities for FDIs and joint ventures for the public-private partnership due to which businessmen and investors of Pakistan must avail this golden opportunity to invest in it. Exchange of business delegations is important to explore new avenues of cooperation.

Being prominent regional expert on UAE & GCC I suggest that for further increase in trade volume, Pakistan must closely work with the UAE authorities to increase export of fresh fruit and vegetable from Pakistan. Government of Pakistan may also finalize plans to operate a speed vessel from Karachi to Dubai to bring perishable items within 48 hours, reducing the current sailing time of up to eight days.

For achieving the desired goal of greater socio-economic integration, high volumes of trade, connectivity and better political understanding both countries should focus on promoting strong connectivity between their private sectors and facilitate frequent exchange of trade delegations that would help in further enhancing current volume of bilateral trade. Moreover, the UAE acknowledges vast foreign direct investment and joint venture opportunities in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural-based industries, insurance and real estate in Pakistan.

Being strategic partner of UAE, Pakistan offers great investment opportunities to the UAE’s investors in various sectors of its economy including infrastructure development, power generation, water management and agro industries. UAE-Pakistan should explore joint ventures (JVs) and investment in aluminum products, horticulture, farming, dairy farming, livestock, financial sector, pre-fabricated houses and affordable low income houses. Moreover, two countries should strengthen their SMEs to achieve more beneficial results.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a role model for the regional as well as emerging countries in the world in terms of socio-economic prosperity, happiness, qualitative life, sustainability, law and order and the last but not the least diversification of economy, energy and productive channels. The UAE GDP increased more than 236-fold from Dh6.5 billion in 1971 to Dh 1,540 billion in 2014 which has been further strengthened and progressed due to governmnet’s business and investment policies.

It has pioneer in regional space pursuits. It is hub of foreign direct investments. It is an ideal center of multiculturalism. It has already been ranked one the safest and happiest countries in the world. It has diversified economy which is smart too. It has unique national policy of diversification of energy resources in the region as well as in the world. Its service sector is flouring and adding its position in the overall GDP. Despite low oil prices in the region and world its macro-economy is stable and sustainable. 

UAE has already started its journey of space, outer space and beyond Mars which is now in upswing. Its journey from sand to space agency is a miracle. Its leaders have strategic vision and its people are dynamic enough to achieve all the unrealized dreams.

Its economy is the most liberal entity in the GCC and MENA. It is 2nd largest economy in the region in terms of volume. It is ranked first in terms of quality, performance and production too. Vision 2021 has transformed its economy and made it more attarctive, innovative, competitive and smarter.

Diversification of economy, energy and production has already made its macro-economy stable and sustained. Massive industrialization, rise to private sector, robust service sector, SMEs and rigorous commercial diplomacy has successfully mitigated the spillover effects of region and world’s weak economic conditions. Moreover, its resilient banking and financial sector provide the strategic cushion to finance many mega projects to create more and more jobs.

UAE is the one of the happiest country in the GCC, MENA and of course the world which shows that it has economics of happiness where people always prefer over corporate profits. Its unmatched socio-economic development is vertical as well as virtuous. Its diversification of economy and energy resources is horizontal as well as harmonious.

UAE’s government is people friendly. It has strategic orientation too. It has clear and comprehensive plans to achieve desired goals of socio-economic prosperity, de-carbonization development of renewables and zero discrimination system and society. Creation of ministries of happiness and tolerance is a giant step in right direction. It means a lot to its government, system, people and elements of peace and harmony in the society. It would mean sustainable development, environment friendly policies, strengthening of pure Emirati values and above all promotion of good governance.

Politically, UAE is one of the most liberal countries in the region. Gradual politicization is on the right path in shape of regular Federal National Council Elections. It stimulates best understanding of national politics and of course policies. It upholds culture of accountability and transparency. It empowers Emiratis which is deep-rooted democracy of the UAE, a unique model. Moreover, political stability has made it heaven for businessmen, investors, workers, laborers, and tourists alike.

On the front of human values, UAE has par excellence. There is no issue of human rights violations as somewhat propagated by the biased Western media. Its judiciary is fair and free. Its legislations are workers friendly due to which it is the ideal destination for residency, talent, recruitment and performance in the world.

Its tolerance level is unmatched. More than 200 different nationalities are working in the UAE which is the prime example of its official policies about interfaith harmony, peace and tolerance. Not a single decree and not a single incident is anti-racial ever happened/reported in seven Emirates since inception. UAE stands for human development. It is the grand total of human values and humanity alike. There is no concept of gender discrimination throughout the country. All people, factions, groups, castes and colors have equal rights before the law and even “Emiratis” do not have any leverage what so ever. Law is supreme. No reporting of prejudice, discrimination and humiliation towards weaker sections of the society in the country. Expatriates are well protected and paid.

UAE is the leading player in the green technologies. Its strategic vision of renewable energy production has achieved great success throughout the world. Renewable energy gears the pace of development. It guarantees the survival of humanity on this planet. It protects the dreams of socio-economic prosperity, stability and sustainability. It provides essential inputs of industrial productivity, generation of employment, reduction of poverty and above all promotes qualitative life and renewable/alternative energy is a value-addition.

Prospects are bright and opportunities are unlimited for the further strengthening of UAE-Pakistan bilateral relations. The essential input may be further strengthening of “trust-deficit”, “points of convergence” and better political understanding between the two countries.