PAK-UAE Relations

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This year marked the 50th anniversary of the “diplomatic relations and exemplary friendship” between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan was the first country to recognize the federation of seven Emirates in 1971 and enjoying brotherly ties with the UAE since then. The bilateral relations of both states are driven by ideological unanimousness, coupled with political and economic cooperation. Presently, UAE is one of the largest trading partners of Pakistan in the Middle East. In 2014, trade between the two countries was valued at $9 billion. The UAE has lent a $2 billion bailout package to Pakistan, so the current government could sail through the difficult economic moment of August 2018. Meanwhile, in December 2019, the UAE deposited $3 billion in the State Bank of Pakistan to enhance the bank’s liquidity and foreign currency reserves. Around 1.6 million Pakistani expats are working in UAE and contributing about $4.5 billion annually to the GDP of Pakistan. During FY20 imports from the UAE to Pakistan stood at $6.4 billion. While the country’s exports to Dubai alone amounted to $1.3 billion, an increase of 14 percent in comparison to the previous records. During the pandemic period, Pakistan sent essential food supplies to the UAE, Important industrial needs were also imported from the UAE including raw materials and machinery. Meanwhile, the trade relations are expected to further blossom as the UAE invites Pakistan to expand its profile through the annual Dubai Expo. Pakistan’s Pavilion at the expo symbolises decades of Pakistan-UAE fraternal & friendly relations. Pakistan’s participation in the event also showcased its “economic diplomacy initiative” and reinforced strong economic linkages between the two countries.  “While visiting Pakistan Pavilion at the expo, foreign minister Qureshi, appreciated the role of the Pakistani community in UAE and stressed that Pakistan’s participation at the expo is an example of the enhancing Pakistan-UAE economic linkages.”

Pakistan and UAE are enjoying cordial relations since its inception and the UAE has maintained this practice with every successive government of Pakistan. The PTI government also looking for smooth political and economic ties with UAE. UAE is the economic hub of the Middle East, Pakistan is particularly interested in attracting foreign direct investment for priority special economic zones, some of which have already been recently visited by the private sector from the UAE. The private sector and associations in second-tier cities including Faisalabad and Sialkot have stepped up their efforts to invite delegations from the UAE for joint ventures in value-added textile, high-end sports goods, pharmaceuticals, and health care products.  Similarly, during the high-profile visits of the foreign minister and president of Pakistan this year, they encouraged the entrepreneurs to seek opportunities to establish strong ties in the business sector. The UAE foreign office has also said that they will be keenly looking into the matter of work visas to Pakistanis which were halted in November 2020. Pakistan has expressed urgency on this count. And, likely, a liberal regime for longer-term business visas would soon be announced for Pakistan. Moreover, the Covid era has opened collaborative opportunities in sectors not explored earlier. Most notably, these include IT and ICT services, telemedicine, and education. The Pakistani government’s facilitation toward digital trade integration could help startups and mature firms alike increase their presence in the Gulf.

On the other hand, both states cooperate in regional development and join hands to promote peace and stability in the region. After the recent episode of Taliban takeover and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, UAE ensured Pakistan its full support for the promotion of peace and stability of Afghanistan.  Pakistan organized an extraordinary moot of foreign ministers of OIC members in Islamabad on 19th December, where the UAE Participated and applauded the efforts of Pakistan to support Afghanistan. Last but not the least, UAE is playing the role of a mediator between South Asian rivals India and Pakistan. UAE’s Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al Otaiba had confirmed that the Gulf states are mediating between India and Pakistan to help the nuclear-armed rivals forge a “healthy and functional” relationship. In the geostrategic milieu, pursuing diplomatic meditation between China-UAE to deepen the prospects of BRI linkages would provide rise to the impetus of cordial ties. The UAE usually relies on foreign actors for its security necessities that allow Pakistan to offer security and military cooperation. Likewise, skilled workers to the UAE by establishing vocational training skills centers to prepare the technicians and provide the best labor to the market will further boost foreign remittance and value-addition to the prospects of relations between two countries. In the CPEC context, linking Gwadar and Dubai has the potential to transform this region into a new global economic hub, therefore, prioritizing the agenda of persuasion for plausible nexus.

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