2nd December is marked as National Day of United Arab Emirates. The UAE has proved itself as one of growing economies in a very short span of time. The UAE’s political system has been designed to ensure that country’s heritage is maintained, adapted and preserved by combining tradition with a modern administrative structure. Pakistan recognized UAE in 1971 and UAE comprises seven Emirates and all have distinct national identity. An agreement was reached between the rulers of six of the Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Umm al-Quwain, Fujairah and Ajman), and the federation to be known as the United Arab Emirates was formally established on 2nd December 1971. The seventh Emirate, Ra’s al-Khaimah, acceded to the new federation the following year.
The bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan have acquired new dimensions at political, economic and social levels emerging into trust-worthy strategic partnership and are still continuing. Right from the beginning, the UAE has extended generous humanitarian assistance, support for better health and education to Pakistan whenever required. The UAE which has become hub of investment, exports, technologies, tourism and renewable energies and large number of Pakistanis are contributing to the UAE’s economic boom. In Pakistan, UAE surely has encouraged investment and helps in greater trade and commerce activities. UAE is one of the largest investors in the Pakistan but bilateral trade has been steadily growing over the years and people-to-people contacts are constantly on the increase. The founder of UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was keen to give an impetus to the bilateral relations between the two countries from the very beginning. It was further strengthened and patronized by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Both countries reaffirm their strong commitment to further reinforce the bonds of friendship. They urge the need to expand the horizon of their bilateral cooperation in diverse fields reflecting deep-rooted and historic ties. Pakistan offers vast opportunities for foreign direct investment and joint ventures in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural based industries, insurance and real estate. Apart from trade and economic relations, Pakistan-UAE military ties are time tested. The Pakistani military has a historic role in helping to train and equip the UAE military, such as training fighter pilots of the UAE Air Force and other defence-related equipment and technology acquisitions. Apart from exchange of delegates at official and unofficial level, military conducts joint exercises to strengthen their capabilities. High levels military delegates from both sides visit time to time to boost their military ties.
The UAE has always been among the first countries to deliver humanitarian relief and assistance to Pakistan in times of need. In 2011, it launched the Pakistan Assistance Programme for building schools, colleges and hospitals in Pakistan. Previously, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development funded the UAE-Pakistan Friendship Road, linking North and South Waziristan. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs from Pakistan are warmly welcomed in the UAE, with many of them flourishing in the country’s favourable business environment. For the past few years, on 23rd of March and 14th of August, which are marked as Pakistan Day and Independence Day of Pakistan respectively, the tallest skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa, is brightened up with the colours of the Pakistani flag to acknowledge the deepest relations between both states. The assistance from UAE is in return nurtured with Pakistan’s commitment to the relationship which particularly has enhanced in the last few years. Attempts were made to malign relations between the two brotherly countries when the UAE awarded Indian PM Modi with their highest civilian award. Pakistan has always handled such gestures diplomatically and on Kashmir cause they have attained world’s attention. So those who try their energies for spoiling both countries connexions must keep in mind that they will not be able to be successful as the mature leadership understand their duties and dynamics of alliance between them. From both sides head of states and high officials carry exchange visits to strengthen ties and enhance diplomatic relations without confusion.
Considering the economic factor, it is important to know that around 1.6 million Pakistani expatriates are working in the UAE who contribute around $4.5 billion annually to the GDP or macro economy of Pakistan. The UAE is the largest investor in Pakistan among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and according to one of the reports of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade, public and private sectors invested about $3.74 billion in Pakistan during 2004-2010. Apart from investment in other major sectors, prospects of initiating joint ventures in aluminium products, agriculture, horticulture, farming, dairy farming and livestock, financial sector, housing prefabricated houses and affordable low income houses are bright. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can also be tapped. UAE has also shown interest for investment in CPEC flagship project and hope that UAE will benefit from this greater connectivity corridor. A large number of Pakistanis not only live in UAE but through tourism, both sides benefit from each other. Apart from cultural exchange programmes UAE has served as a home ground for the Pakistani cricket team since 2009.
The leadership from both sides believe that they should focus on supporting efforts to achieve development, security and peace at regional and international levels through its constructive initiatives. These initiatives are aimed at achieving stability and prosperity for all peoples. Both look forward in continuing to promote the values of tolerance, dialogue, coexistence and cooperation in the face of various regional and international challenges.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.