UAE committed to Arab defence

FOLLOWING is the full text of the interview given by the Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Defence Minister, General Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to Al Difa Al Khaleeji, an Arabic defence magazine, on the occasion of the UAE Armed Forces Unification Day, which falls on May 6.

By (Wam)

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Published: Mon 5 May 2003, 12:33 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 10:59 PM

Question: In one of your statements to the media, you pointed out the special attention given to the unification of the armed forces in nation building... What, in your opinion, is the special attention and how did it contribute to the building of the nation?

Answer: You know that when the UAE Federation was founded in 1971, it faced difficult regional and international issues, just as it faces many challenges now. There were people who bet on the failure of our federation experience. There were also others who pitied us, thinking that our union would face similar fate like that of defunct and unsuccessful Arab unions.

But with Allah's grace and the wise leadership of our leaders, ours became a reality and the federation continues to grow from strength to strength.

I think the Supreme Council resolution of 1976 which provided for the formation of a unified army, forms a significant turning point in the history of the federation, because it reiterated, once and for all, that the union was the final choice of both the Rulers and the people of the UAE.

Question: What are the bases of UAE's defence policies?

Answer: The bases of every defence policy are to protect a nation's independence and sovereignty, to maintain national security and stability by providing the necessary deterring force, capable of deterring against any foreign aggression and capable of dealing effectively with any aggression should it occur.

In addition to the aforementioned bases, the UAE, being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council, remains highly committed to its obligations towards the GCC, including an active participation in the defence of any member state in the event of any foreign attack.

The UAE also remains committed to the Arab defence treaty, and is ready to put this commitment into action whenever Arab leaders call for a joint Arab military operation, as was the case in the formation of Arab deterrent forces in Lebanon in 1976, and the resolution issued by the Arab summit in Cairo in 1990, which called for despatching Arab forces to defend Saudi Arabia against the high possibility of invasion by Saddam Hussein, after he invaded Kuwait.

Question: What are the defence challenges facing the UAE as a result of its strategic location?

Answer: Our country's strategic geographical location has added more responsibilities to our defence policies. This strategic location has placed our country in the heart of international politics. Since the Portuguese warships berthed on our coasts in 1508, there has been continuous competition among the then powerful European countries, including Britain, Germany, France and Russia, for influence and authority in the region. This continued until the British succeeded in imposing their authority in 1892 and up to the time the countries in the region gained independence in the sixties and seventies of the last century, only to be followed by the American influence, which continues to grow after the Iraq-Iran war, then grew stronger after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. So the challenges facing the UAE as a result of our country's strategic geographical location demands strict follow -up and deep understanding of the reality of the world order and its future approach, as that has direct effect on regional security and developments. It also demands that we stand up to our role in the provision of security to the waterways, to ensure freedom of navigation in those waterways. This demands a well-prepared and equipped defence force.

Question: One can see that UAE officials attach greater importance and special care to the role of the armed forces in areas of international conflicts, like the role the UAE forces played in the international peace-keeping operation in Kosovo and the demining operation in southern Lebanon. What are the UAE's objectives behind such involvement?

Answer: Our forces' involvement in areas of conflict reflects the UAE's peace approach and its commitment to participate in bringing peace and security to the world, particularly when the area of conflict is a Muslim or Arab country. This role also reflects our foreign policy, which, as enshrined in our Constitution, seeks to stand in support of Arab and Islamic issues and interests, and to enhance the bond of friendship and cooperation between the UAE and all countries and peoples of the world, on the bases of UN charter and international norms.

Today, the performances of the UAE armed forces in areas of international conflicts, go to prove the great success of the plans envisaged by the President, His Highness Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan for the building of a modern armed forces, to boost the federation's progress, a modern military force, capable of playing the roles assigned to them in any part of the world with utmost competence and professionalism.

The participation of our forces in international peace -keeping operations provides our troops with an opportunity to interact with the army from advanced countries like the interaction that took place with the Nato forces in Kosovo.

It also enhances our country's position in the international arena and reaffirms the UAE's commitment to international peace and security.

In short, this involvement goes to boost international trust and respect for UAE's policy. We now live in a world where boundaries between countries no more exist and where no country can go it alone and secure a proper place without active and positive participation in world issues.

Question: What is the role of the UAE armed forces taking part in the Dira' Al Jazeera (Peninsula Shield) in

Kuwait and will the forces involve in combat if Kuwait is attacked?

Answer: The GCC states are committed to defend any member state in the event of any attack or if threatened by a foreign aggression. Our forces have gone to Kuwait in compliance with such an obligation and their role has been merely defensive. Of course, had Kuwait been attacked, the Peninsula Shield forces would have participated in warding it off.

Question: Has war on Iraq led to rise in arms purchase spending of the UAE and other countries of the region?

Answer: I do not think it will cause any increase in the country's arms purchases since Iraq, in the wake of Kuwait liberation war, the international sanctions and elimination of its weapons of mass destruction, no longer poses threat to any country in the region.

Now, the region is looking forward to a new Iraq, whose features are not yet clear. The situation in Iraq, following the collapse of President Saddam Hussein's regime, is open to all odds and every single odd has a direct impact on Iraq's neighbouring countries and the status of security and stability in the region. We are hopeful that our Iraqi brethren will manage to close their ranks and rally to build a modern state capable of maintaining its people's right to lead a decent, free, safe and stable life.

Question: Is the diversification policy of arms sources as pursued by the UAE based on a specific strategy of armament?

Answer: Armament policies of any country are normally based on its defence strategy, which is made up of various military, political and economic factors. These factors, collectively, affect, directly or indirectly, armament methods in terms of the quantities of weapons, their types and technical specifications as well as their sources.

You may know that armament ties deepen relations between countries and may sometimes take these relations up to the strategic level. Weapon in itself is a strategic commodity and arms deals are not confined to purchasing as there istraining, spare parts, ammunitions, modernization and replacements.

As you diversify your arms sources you, too, ramify your strategic relationship patterns. However, there are four or five countries in the world deemed as main arms providers.

For instance, air weaponry such as fighter planes, bombers, reconnaissance planes and combat helicopters are exclusively from the US, France, Britain and Russia and so are air defence systems and tanks. The number of arms providers would increase to seven or eight countries as far as armoured vehicles, personnel carriers, artillery and naval pieces are concerned.

Unquestionably, the diversification of arms sources is much better and more useful than relying on a single provider. However, diversification can never be a goal, per se.

Priority in selecting arms is given to efficiency, effectiveness and responsiveness to military requirements of the defence strategy regardless of their source.

Question: The Gulf Cooperation Council is a forum that is compatible with the aspirations of the peoples of the region and is deemed important and vital for cooperation and coordination among its member states. To what extent has this joint coordination been attained?

Answer: The level of coordination is good but our aspirations remain always far beyond what has been achieved.

The status of defence coordination, today, is far better than the situation five or ten years ago. Our ambition at the time when the GCC was established in 1981 was to enable its member states to be fully self dependent as far as warding off challenges and risks are concerned.

Thank God, we now have highly trained and qualified youth and respected military colleges, which graduate qualified cadres at high degrees of military professionalism. We pray to the Almighty Allah to help the GCC leaders in their endeavour to promote joint action not only in the defence field but in all the domains.

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