UAE pledges Dh734 million in development aid as Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed visits Pakistan

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed arrived in Pakistan on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The trip marked the first official foreign visit by the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in 2020.

Nearly one year on since he last visited the country on January 6, 2019, Sheikh Mohamed arrived in Islamabad and met Mr Khan to discuss ways to further bilateral ties.

Sheikh Mohamed was greeted by Mr Khan and a guard of honour when his plane touched down at Nur Khan airbase.

"I arrived in Islamabad today and discussed with my friend Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, regional and international issues of mutual interest as well as ways to enhance bilateral ties," Sheikh Mohamed tweeted on Thursday.

The pair discussed the situation in the Middle East, Arabian Gulf, Indian subcontinent and the Islamic world, with the leaders exchanging views on regional and international issues of common concern, reported state news agency Wam.

Sheikh Mohamed began the meeting by congratulating Mr Khan and the Pakistani people on the new year, and wishing that 2020 would be a year of peace and development for the country.

Later, the Crown Prince directed the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development to allocate US$200 million to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Pakistan.

The initiative aims to boost entrepreneurship, assisting the Pakistani government’s efforts to create a stable and balanced national economy.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. Courtesy Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Twitter

Sheikh Mohamed also spoke of the bonds of friendship that unite the two nations, pointing to Pakistan's role in maintaining regional peace and security in the Arabian Gulf.

He said Pakistan was an essential pillar within the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, an organisation founded in 1969 and comprising 57 member states, most of which are Muslim-majority countries.

The OIC seeks to act as the collective voice of the Muslim world and protect the interests of Muslims through peace and co-operation.

Mr Khan welcomed the Emirati leader and thanked him for the UAE's support towards Pakistan's economy and development sector.

He also thanked Sheikh Mohamed for his keenness to enhance bilateral relations and pointed to the pivotal role he plays in supporting development and peace both regionally and internationally.

A lunch was then held in Sheikh Mohamed's honour.

Sheikh Mohamed’s visit was his second to Pakistan in two years. Ghulam Dastgir, Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, said this indicated the Emirate's close relationship with South Asian country.

"Pakistan and the UAE are very close and our leadership has frequent interactions with each other," he said.

"The visit is important ... [it] will help to promote trade and investment relations in important areas like defense, education and health."

He said the UAE's economic partnership with Pakistan would likely strengthen "in the near future", citing naming the petroleum sector, infrastructure development, and the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, as top potential areas for UAE investment in Pakistan.

Mr Dastgir said Pakistan has "potential" and the UAE has the "capacity" to invest in these sectors, as well as in Gwadar, a port city on the southwestern coast of Balochistan, and Pakistan's largest infrastructural project since its independence.

The UAE Government has a number of projects in Pakistan, including in health and infrastructure under the UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme. Yet, the Ambassador said that his country is open to more partnerships.

He mentioned tourism as another sector that can provide a "win- win situation" for both countries. "We have a large community here. Our people are contributing in the development and progress of this country, and it is appreciated by the UAE Government," he told Wam.

"What I see, is that the economic partnership in the near future and in the distant future will definitely be strengthened between the two countries," he said.

On Thursday's visit, Mr Dastgir said Mr Khan's reception of Sheikh Mohamed and his accompanying delegation at the airport was a "gesture of brotherly relations."

Mr Khan even drove Sheikh Mohamed himself in a black Mercedes Benz to the Prime Minister's House. A picture shared on the official Twitter account for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the political party founded and led by Mr Khan, showed the pair sitting in the front seats of the car arriving at the Prime Minister's House.

PTI went on to say that Sheikh Mohamed's visit would "contribute to further enhancement of multi-faced collaboration between Pakistan and the UAE."

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign affairs issued a statement saying both country's clearly view their fraternal ties with great importance.

"The visit illustrates the strength and substance of the Pakistan-UAE special relationship, based on commonalities of faith, cultural affinities, and a shared resolve to take mutual cooperation to a new level," it said.

"The UAE is Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major source of investments. The UAE is also among Pakistan’s prime development partners in education, health and energy sectors."

This latest trip lasted one day and coincided with the same week that a Pakistan naval ship is due to make a good will visit to .

Relations between the UAE and Pakistan have gone from strength to strength over the past few years.

In December, Sheikh Mohamed held a meeting with Gen Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff.

In high-level talks at Al Bahr Palace in Abu Dhabi, the two discussed efforts to safeguard security and develop co-operation between the two countries.

Last year, Hamad Al Zaabi, the UAE Ambassador to Pakistan, also announced the UAE’s ongoing efforts to help Pakistan eradicate polio by 2022.

Through its Emirates Polio Campaign, Mr Al Zaabi said the Emirates has played a “major role in eradicating polio” by actively contributing to the financing and support of critical vaccination campaigns in the South Asian country.

Updated: January 2, 2020 09:47 PM

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