DESPITE biased, planned, prejudice and conspiratorial social media propaganda and ill-informed politicians of the country that the issue of Kashmir was included in the agenda and which was consequently, discussed during the recently held meeting of the OIC during a session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of the OIC in Nigerien capital Niamey. The OIC unanimously rejected the illegal and unilateral actions by India on August 5, 2019, to change the internationally recognised disputed status of the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and demanded that India rescind its illegal steps. It is indeed a great diplomatic victory of Government and Foreign Ministry of Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi met with UAE Minister of state H.E. Reem Al Hashimi on the sidelines of OIC foreign Ministers’ meeting and discussed the issue of visa restrictions imposed on Pakistani citizens. FM Qureshi requested to resolve the issue at the earliest. On his part, HE Nasser bin Thani Al Hamli Minister of Human Resources & Emiratisation extended his continued support for Overseas Pakistanis contrary to media reports. Conversely, there is no ban on export of workforce and there has been 11 percent increase in knowledge workers.
Furthermore, the two sides also exchanged views on bilateral cooperation, Covid-19 situation, Pakistan’s participation in the Expo-2021, and other matters of mutual interest. Qureshi highlighted the close fraternal ties as well as people-to-people contacts between the two countries and stressed Pakistan’s commitment to forge closer cooperation with UAE in diverse fields. According to reliable diplomatic sources, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) H.E. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Naihan will arrive Pakistan next week on a two-week visit. A high-level delegation will also accompany him. The UAE President, during his visit, apart from houbara hunting, is also expected to meet President Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Rangers have been deployed in five districts adjacent to Cholistan. It would be a golden opportunity for the government to revive its bilateral relations with UAE.
Unfortunately, in recent months social media especially U-Tube is being used to spoil bilateral relations with the UAE which has been catering more than 1.5 million Pakistanis for so many years. It seems that 5th generation hybrid war has been geared up against Pakistan and its people especially working and living in the GCC countries by enemies of the country and its supporters/handlers within the soil. According to the SBP report (2020) Pakistan has been receiving more than US$ 12 billion work remittances form the UAE and Saudi Arabia on an annual basis which play vital role in the macro-economy of the country and act as bridging gap between the international economy of the country. It is estimated that further deterioration may jeopardize work force existence and potential of the country in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, both the countries have been facilitating 3-4 hundred thousand new jobs annually. It is estimated that country is on the loss of 1000 new jobs on a daily basis because of new visa ban. Pakistan has been exporting of US$ 11 billion of goods to UAE and Saudi Arabia which may not be in comfort zones. Thus, stay away from foolish means of defaming people and governments of the ME which even contradicts the true spirits of the Constitution of Pakistan.
People and government should not forget that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been supporting Pakistan in its difficult times since its inception. According to official figures (December, 2019) bilateral annual trade between the UAE and Pakistan reached $3.2 billion in 2018. The UAE is one of the largest foreign investors in Pakistan with investment in telecom, aviation, banking, real estate, oil and gas sectors. Moreover, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development is undertaking development and humanitarian assistance projects in Pakistan worth $200 million. The UAE also extended $3b balance of payment support to Pakistan in 2019. Pakistan describes the UAE as its largest trading partner in the Middle East, major source of FDIs and reliable development partner. Islamabad is seeking Emirati investments in the energy projects, tourism sector and infrastructure development. The Ministry of Commerce published a report (December, 2020) indicating that despite Covid-19, Saudi Arabia has emerged as one of the top export destinations for Pakistani goods in the Middle East as exports to the peninsula increased by 34% in June 2020. The volume of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia increased to $2.181 billion in FY20. Exports to Saudi Arabia have seen a consistent increase from $336.9 million in FY17 to $342.08m in FY19 and $446.18m FY20. However, the imports from Saudi Arabia have declined from $3.213bn FY18 to $1.735bn in FY20.
The government is now focusing on commercial diplomacy and trying to boost exports of halal meat and other perishable and non-perishable items to Saudi Arabia to further enhance economic diplomacy between the two countries. The country’s federal cabinet has recently approved export of livestock to Middle Eastern countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to earn foreign exchange and boost farmers profitability. In this connection, six meat exporting companies have recently registered with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, removing a major obstacle in our way to export to Saudi Arabia. In this connection, Pakistani businessmen and investors are preparing to participate in the Jeddah International Trade Fair 2020 to exhibit their products for the Saudi market and fetch more export orders.
More than 30 companies visited Saudi Arabia to explore the trade opportunities and support the Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors such as health, education and tourism. Pakistan’s major exports to the Kingdom are rice, meat, fruit and vegetable, men’s garments and footwear. In a wise diplomatic move, Saudi Arabia indicated improvement of ties with Qatar which has been stalemated since 2017. Kuwait, UAE and other regional countries appreciated this move. Saudi King also made a call to Turkish President and discussed matters of mutual interest clearly, indicated paradigm shift in the foreign policy options of the KSA. Being a prominent regional expert of GCC especially the UAE & Saudi Arabia, I proper that Foreign Ministry of Pakistan should play well coordinated efforts to remodel bilateral ties with both the brotherly countries and should not be standing “nowhere” in trhe wake of colossal socio-economic, geopolitical and geostrategic changes in the GCC & MEAN in the days to come.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.