In an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Behrooz Ayaz referred to the relations between Pakistan and the UAE and the visit that Mohammed bin Zayed was supposed to pay to Islamabad, and said: Mohammed bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, on January 25, during an unofficial visit to the city of Rahim Yar Khan in the city of Punjab in Pakistan had a meeting with Shahbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of that country, and after the disclosure of the news, he was scheduled to visit Islamabad on Monday, January 30.
He stated that the meeting was in continuation of the visit of “Asim Munir”, the chief of the Pakistani army, to Saudi Arabia on January 5 and a meeting with the defense minister and the crown prince of that country, who also met with the president of the UAE a few days later, adding: Those trips were in line with the new order of the Middle East, that is to say, are evaluated as turning from the West to the East and are indicative of the creation of a new chapter in Pakistan’s relations with the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.
Recalling that Pakistan has long had good relations with Arab countries, especially the United Arab Emirates, and such relations have shown themselves more in the leadership of the Muslim League party leaders, the expert on Asia affairs added: The UAE and Pakistan have deepened their relations in the past decade. Shahbaz Sharif has visited the UAE three times in the first eight months of his premiership, most of which were of an economic nature. During this period, there have been 90 flights from the UAE to Pakistani cities every week, and all of this is a clear proof of the high level of relations between the two countries.
Emphasizing that what can be evaluated in the new relations between Pakistan and the UAE is the economic needs of Pakistan and the political-military demands of the UAE as an active player in the Middle East, Ayaz said: Pakistan’s economy is fragile and based on agriculture which, due to its geographical location, flood has always been its deadly enemy. This case, along with the large population of that country, along with the political and economic structural corruption, has affected the current state of the country’s economy.
He continued: Pakistan’s economy has always depended more on foreign financial aid and loans than on domestic production. Pakistan is one of the most indebted countries in Asia, having a foreign debt of about 127 billion dollars, which is nearly one third of its gross national product, which is 348 billion dollars. The country’s debt to the UAE is more than two billion dollars.
Saying that the UAE is the third largest economy in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which is also known today as a successful player in green technologies, Ayaz explained the economic advantages of the UAE for Pakistan and companies that are likely to invest in Pakistan.
Referring to the importance of the Middle East for Pakistan, he mentioned that Shahbaz Sharif has had 10 official trips, eight of which have been to the Middle East, and said: Pakistani labor force is considered as the second largest national group, after Indians, in that country. Pakistanis are also working in Saudi Arabia and the foreign currency they earn is very important for Pakistan.
Ayaz noted: The trade balance of the two countries increased from 5.5 billion dollars to more than 10.5 billion last year. The two countries plan to increase their trade balance to 15 billion dollars in the next three years and to 40 billion dollars in the next 10 years. That is why Pakistan considers the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to be an important support to save its economy.
Saying that in the past decade, the UAE has changed from a moderate and passive player to an active and interventionist player in the political and economic fields, which is a result of the structural changes and the security order of the world and the Middle East, he continued: The so-called “Arab Spring” developments and the US dealings with those countries, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, have been an instructive experience for the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, especially the UAE and Saudi Arabia, that the United States is not a reliable support and they should pay more attention to “self-help” and look to the East and cooperation with Russia and China can be evaluated in this direction.
The expert on Asia affairs said: Last year, the disclosure of China’s establishment of military and weaponry facilities in the UAE angered Washington. This is a proof of the UAE’s attention to the East and self-help; especially that after the United States refused to sell the advanced F-35 fighter jet to the UAE.
Ayaz considered the UAE’s current relations with Islamabad, especially Asim Munir’s recent trips to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, in the context of Pakistan’s military aid to the UAE in exchange for economic assistance and creation of a new order in the region, and added: In addition to this, there is the possibility that Abu Dhabi is trying to normalize relations between Pakistan and the Zionist regime and not to recognize it.
He pointed to the cancellation of Mohammed bin Zayed’s trip to Islamabad on the pretext of weather conditions and explained: It seems that security conditions, especially the recent terrorist attack, were the main reason for it; because the Tehrik-e-Taliban group has found the current opportunity to draw attention towards itself in order to materialize its demands. Nevertheless, the recent evidence shows the deepening of Pakistan’s relations with Arab countries of the Persian Gulf is with the focus on economic aid in exchange for military weapons, China and a possible inclination towards the Zionist regime which, of course, any interaction with the Zionist regime will face a sharp reaction from the public opinion in Pakistan
The analyst of Asia affairs noted: Pakistan can play an important role in expanding relations between Beijing and Abu Dhabi. If Pakistan is assured of the economic assistance of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, it will probably put downgrading relations with the United States on its agenda, and this is an issue that Arab countries, along with Russia and China, are well aware of. The Middle East region is witnessing a new security order that needs to strengthen itself more militarily and Pakistan can play an important role in it. The view of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf towards the East can also be evaluated in this regard.