Should Pakistan and the UAE be cautious in growing military ties?

Pakistan-UAE Relations

Should Pakistan and the UAE be cautious in growing military ties?

 Should Pakistan and the UAE be cautious in growing military ties?

Pakistan-UAE Relations

 Pakistan and UAE discuss military ties

Pakistan and the UAE have recently discussed the possibilities of developing military ties. The countries have enjoyed positive relations on many fronts over the past years. Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Saturday received Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Lt. General Qamar Javed Bajwa, at Al Bahr Palace. The two discussed ways to enhance cooperation and coordination between the two countries in defence and military affairs in the best interest of the two sides. They also exchanged views on the latest regional and international developments as well as a number of issues of mutual concern.  Sheikh Mohamed and Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff emphasised their keenness on continuing enhancing cooperation and joint work for the benefit of the two friendly countries and support regional and international peace and security efforts.

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has also called for resolving the conflict in the middle east, as he views it in Pakistan’s best interest. “Pakistan would continue to facilitate all efforts in that direction with a view to precluding conflict, defusing tensions and preserving peace for the benefit of the region and the world,” Imran said in the bilateral meeting held in Saudi capital recently. The leadership on both sides remains determined to take Pak-Saudi relations to a new level, according to APP, the official news agency of Pakistan.

The UAE and Pakistan have had a strong relationship in the past decades with mutual help and cooperation. Pakistanis remain the pivotal contributors in the development of UAE and with 1.6 million Pakistanis living with peace and respect as second largest foreigner community in UAE. the UAE also established many humanitarian and development programs for the people of Pakistan. However recent geopolitical developments in the region, and the two countries’ leanings could make further cooperation dangerous and fragile. 

UAE already forming developed ties with India

The UAE and India are closer than ever as economic and trade ties between the 2 nations are rapidly increasing, which could become a major obstacle in growing military ties with Pakistan, who are in a hostile relation with India over several issues, including the Kashmir dispute. 

Most recently, the US-India business council has announced its support for the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum to be held in Abu Dhabi next month.  

The economic and investment partnership between India and the UAE is at an    unprecedented level with a clear synergy about the road ahead, according to India’s sovereign wealth fund chief.“India has very strong demographics and scalable growth potential that will lead to lots of investment opportunities, and allow us to feed into many of the strengths of the UAE,” said Sujoy Bose, Managing Director and CEO of India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi considers the UAE a valuable partner. “We consider the UAE as a valuable partner in realising the objective to reach $5 trillion economies through a mutually beneficial partnership,” said Modi, who is on a two-day state visit to the UAE.

Hence, expanding military ties with the UAE would be a risky move for Pakistan, as the UAE’s economic and bilateral ties with India have reached a point where their reliability in such a partnership would be questioned. However, the same could be said for Pakistan as the next point will illustrate. 

Pakistan already planning larger-scale military ties with Iran

Another thorn in the prospect of growing military ties between the UAE and Pakistan is Pakistan’s developing military ties with Iran, who are considered a geopolitical threat to the UAE. 

As India strengthens its ties with Israel, Pakistan is doing the same with Iran, especially in the military sphere. After arriving in Tehran earlier this month, Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, met with the Iranian civil and military hierarchy to extend the scope of bilateral relations and consolidate security arrangements. 

Since Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan assumed office in August 2018, there has been a special focus on renewing trust and upgrading relations with close allies. Furthering Khan’s peace efforts in the region, Bajwa is also pursuing military diplomacy and this was his second visit this year to Iran. 

Within just one year, the direction and focus of Pakistan-Iran ties have completely changed. When Khan visited Iran early this year, it was to solve bilateral issues, rebuild trust and bring an end to the ongoing terror attacks carried out from both sides of the Pakistan-Iran border. 

Bajwa headed a high-ranking military delegation, including some top Pakistani intelligence officials, to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri and Army commander Maj.-Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi. Offering a solution-oriented approach, his efforts were well-received in Iran and several important factors are highlighted here. 

First, having called for “military and defence cooperation with Iran,” the general maintained the crucial balance between Riyadh and Tehran. Continuing Pakistan’s time-tested policy of remaining impartial in regional conflicts, a joint Pakistan-Iran security mechanism has been discussed and past issues seem to be forgotten. It is therefore clear that Pakistan has positive hopes for a strong and enduring relationship with Iran. 

Pakistan will have to evaluate its stance carefully, as expanding military ties with both the UAE and Iran is a dangerous strategy to undertake, and will put them in a difficult geopolitical position. 

Hazem Zahab

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