UAE reminds Pakistan of changed realities




The United Arab Emirates, historically close to all South Asian countries, is the latest among many traditional friends that is trying to make Pakistan aware of the futility of its zero sum competition with India.


UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the Chief Guest at India’s Republic Day parade on January 26 and a contingent of UAE soldiers led this year’s parade. From UAE’s perspective, the gesture acknowledged economic, political and security realities.


With $60 billion in bilateral trade in 2015, the UAE is India’s third largest trading partner, after the United States and China. It is also tenth largest foreign investor in India with over $8 billion in investments. Indian companies have invested around $55 billion in the UAE and annual remittances from the 2.6 million strong Indian diaspora amounts to $8 billion.


Pakistan’s ruling elite tends to see other nations as close to India or as friends of Pakistan. The Pakistani narrative often ignores economics and sees international relations in binary terms, emphasising religion and ideology.


Some Pakistani commentators have already started taking potshots at ‘fellow Muslims’ embracing ‘Hindu India’ at the expense of Pakistan. Ironically, UAE is not the first Gulf Arab Muslim country affirming friendship with India as chief guest at India’s Republic Day Parade. Former Saudi King Abdullah was the chief guest at the 2006 parade and proudly declared India as his “second home.”


For its part, the UAE has maintained close ties with both India and Pakistan historically even while providing critical support to Pakistan at crucial times. The largest Indian and Pakistani diaspora in the Gulf are in the UAE and they send much valued remittances to both countries. The communities often also get along quite well, benefiting from their shared cultures. Pakistan’s effort to build an iron curtain with India breaks down in the U.A.E. as it does elsewhere around the world. Given the geographic proximity and easy access to both countries, Indians and Pakistanis often interact in Dubai, in addition to breaking trade and travel barriers.


Since becoming independent in 1971, the UAE has shown tremendous sensitivity to Pakistani concerns in the security realm even while expanding trade and economic ties with India. During 1970s, Pakistan concluded a military protocol with U.A.E. and other Gulf countries, which enabled Pakistani officers to train and serve in the armed forces and police of these countries.


UAE’s founder, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, made it his country’s policy to assist Pakistan’s economy by hiring Pakistani labour in addition to giving direct aid. Between 1971 and 2015, UAE was the destination country for 32.9% of Pakistani migrant workers. As of 2016, according to World Bank data, the 1.2 million strong Pakistani diaspora in the UAE sends remittances worth $4.36 billion annually to Pakistan.


Moreover, the UAE has periodically offered balance-of-payments support in addition to investment in specific projects to help Pakistan get through times of economic difficulty, such as the years immediately after Pakistan’s loss of Bangladesh and at other interludes of political turmoil. Bilateral aid, which started with the setting up of the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) in 1974, over the years has made UAE the second largest Arab donor to Pakistan while Pakistan has been the largest ADFD aid recipient in Asia.


Still, the UAE’s affection for Pakistan’s people cannot alter two harsh facts that make India more important for most countries than Pakistan. First of these is the difference of size between the two South Asian neighbours. Compared to $60 billion in bilateral trade between the UAE and India, its volume of trade with Pakistan stood at only $7 billion in 2015. Although, the UAE is the fourth major foreign investor in Pakistan, the cumulative value of those investments stands at $20 billion, much less than the UAE investment in or from India.


The January 11 attack by the Afghan Taliban belonging to the Haqqani Network at the Governor’s House in Kandahar resulted in the death of 5 UAE diplomatic staff and the wounding of its ambassador to Kabul, Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi. Such incidents demonstrate how the UAE and Pakistan might be moving in opposite directions.



  1. In foreign relations, there are no friends or foes, it is all revolves around national interest that either converges, is neutral, diverges or clashes. UAE sees India as a huge trading opportunity, big oil and gas buyer, and a destination for a profitable capitol investment protected by rule of law; Pakistan other hand has nothing to offer in terms of trade or investment. So naturally India is highly significant for UAE in every respect.
    If the people of Pakistan go on electing the same crooks and looters election after election, the country will for ever remain a backward, debt ridden and a insignificant basket case in the comity of nations. The solution wholly and solely lies in the hands of the people of Pakistan, if they want to move forward, want to have respect, prosperity and significance in the comity of nations, they better start electing honest and upright rulers, even if the are inexperienced, not so bright; as long as they are honest and sincere, they will pull out the country from the current quagmire.

  2. As the world around us transforms, one thing will never change-HH will never miss an opportunity to take a cheap shot at his country of origin. UAE has not reminded Pakistan of anything. It is Pakistani nation that re-calibrated her Mideast policies. It will no longer toe the Arab line against Iran in a zero sum game. Pakistan refused to act as a hired gun in Yemeni quagmire and wisely chose to concentrate on Port and infrastructure initiative with China. Arguably the Chinese Mega Port venture at Gwadar will take the limelight away from UAE ports-that alone will change the dynamics of the UAE-Pakistan relationship in a way that HH cannot seem to comprehend. As for India, UAE DPW has been in India since Musharraf's days and spurned his invitation to join Gwadar operations in 2006. UAE has always balanced her relations with India and Pakistan based on national interest. It is high time Pakistan balanced her relations with Gulf Arabs and Iran based on Pakistan's interests and not emotions. Pakistan will no longer be the hired thug in the region.

  3. We all know when HH writes article, he doesn't leave any stone unturned when it comes to criticizing Pakistan. Indians have never faced with the prolong war (40+ years) situation like Pakistan did. It takes lot of guts and glory to survive when you are faced with this kind of war. When you were sending CIA/ISI trained Jihadi's to Afghanistan to fight the commies, Indians were covertly or overtly siding with the Russians and supporting their Afghan poodles. While you were sending your students to madrassas, Indians were sending their PhDs to US not USSR. So, my point is there is no need to compare Pakistan with India in every article you write.

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