The UAE is a miracle in the desert and model for peace

Country is a melting pot of not just cultures, nationalities and religions, but also diverse enterprises and business models

By Shahab Jafry

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Published: Tue 17 May 2022, 10:16 PM

How ironic that fate has raised His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, to the presidency of the UAE just when his work as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has helped catapult the country to the forefront of nations in terms of education, security and development. Now, with him at the helm, the world very rightly expects UAE to scale yet higher peaks of progress and prominence.

Even as Crown Prince, he was the face of the government for the outside world in an era when UAE established itself as the most diverse, cosmopolitan and vibrant country in the region, in addition to becoming its financial nerve centre. This was part of a long process that started with providing the country’s youth as well as its working professionals the best education and training the world could offer. Over time, such was the lure of the UAE and so strong its relationship with the world’s leading schools and universities that some of the best international brand names in the industry set up full-time campuses in the country – a unique achievement, especially for such a young nation.

It was no surprise, then, that it didn’t take long for the world’s leading businesses, from big investment banks to conglomerates to technology giants, to also beeline for the ‘miracle in the desert’. Now UAE is a melting pot of not just cultures, nationalities and religions, but also diverse enterprises and business models that are both fueling and sharing its growth and giving academics an entirely new model of governance to learn from.

Sheikh Mohamed has also played the most central role in upgrading the UAE military to its present-day status as one of the best trained, equipped and funded fighting forces in the world; an obsession that goes back to his days as a cadet at the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he trained in armour, helicopter flying, tactical flying and para trooping; besides rubbing shoulders with the finest military minds of the future.

It’s because of this vision that the UAE now holds the world’s largest International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) every two years in Abu Dhabi, which showcases the world’s best and latest military technology and also acts as a platform for signing defence deals worth billions of dollars; making it the number-one such event on the calendar anywhere in the world. Over the last few years, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has proliferated across many sectors, including the military, the UAE government has also hosted novel exhibitions involving said technology. The initiative is expected to trigger a global interest in further research and funding in this sector.

The President is also known for his deep understanding of foreign policy as well as his bold initiatives. His personal mediation has helped keep a lid on crises from Syria and Iraq all the way to Libya and Yemen. He also brokered crucial negotiations between Washington and Moscow in 2016, when the Trump administration wanted to reach out to find ways of a limited reset of their bilateral relationship. And, of course, he set the ball in motion that led to a number of Muslim countries officially recognising Israel and setting the stage for a new, more realistic round of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Yet above all, it is his humility and down-to-earth nature that make him stand out as a global leader truly loved by his people. Everybody knows that he takes a deep personal interest in the affairs of the state and all its people; often calling local heroes personally just to convey his appreciation and make sure they know that their work is honoured.

It is these extraordinary qualities, which Sheikh Mohamed nurtured throughout his 18 years as Crown Prince, that explain why the whole world has such high hopes from him as he assumes the president’s office. The Middle East, pretty much like most of the rest of the world, needs a period of peace and consolidation. For that, it needs visionary leaders that have the capacity to make their countries grow and also the foresight to take others along.

Even after coming this far, and raising his country to heights most statesmen can only dream of, Sheikh Mohamed’s most important journey has just begun. And leaders and citizens from all over the world, from the US to Russia and Israel to Palestine, are now looking to him and his country to solve lingering conflicts plaguing this region and beyond and also breathe fresh life into the economic bonanza that now defines the Arab Gulf.

The writer is an analyst based in Lahore

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