UAE and Pakistan have a lot in common
Expo 2020 in Dubai offers a great opportunity for Pakistani businesses.
The UAE's airline Emirates turned 34 on October 25. It was on this day in 1985 that Fazle Ghani Mian, a Pakistani pilot, took its inaugural flight to Pakistan's port city of Karachi, wet-leased from the state-owned Pakistan International Airlines. Mian also trained the UAE national pilots in Dubai. The Civil Aviation Authority in Pakistan issued them their commercial licenses. With a fleet of more than 265 aircraft, Emirates today flies to more than 155 destinations in over 80 countries around the world. It is offering global connectivity and world-class services to major cities, including Pakistan's Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Sialkot, and Multan.
Pakistan's relations with Dubai formed much before that, with the earliest migrant workers moving from Pakistan in the 60s. Pakistanis in the UAE are one of the oldest expatriate groups and the third largest overseas Pakistani community. Signifying Dubai as a city of dreams for many, an expression Dubai Chalo (a kind of "westward ho", "Let us go to Dubai," in Urdu) had become common in Pakistan by the early 70s. The UAE, founded in 1971, now hosts about 1.6 million Pakistanis whose remittances (around $4.5 billion annually) play an important role in bolstering their country's foreign-exchange reserves.
Pakistan and UAE relations have evolved into wide-ranging co-operation in various fields.
Numerous exchange visits by the leaders of the two countries over the decades evidence their keenness in strengthening and consolidating ties and deepening cooperation between the two countries. The UAE is Pakistan's largest trading partner in the Middle East and a major source of investments. The trade volume between the two countries is around $8.19 billion. Pakistani military has had a remarkable role in training and equipping the UAE military and air force. The UAE-Pakistan Assistance Programme has majorly contributed in education, health, energy and infrastructure development. Since 2014, the Global Polio Eradication, an initiative of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, has helped provide vital polio vaccines to more than 71 million children in Pakistan. Several UAE companies are working in Pakistan in aviation, oil, ports and shipping, banking, telecommunications, insurance, real estate, food and technology. Pakistan's private sector has invested in Dubai's real estate sector. The UAE investments in Pakistan stand at more than $3.9 billion. Pakistan exports $869 million worth of goods to the UAE, and imports goods worth $7.5 billion. The UAE will invest $5 billion in an oil refinery project in Pakistan by the yearend. The country has served as a home ground for the Pakistan cricket team since 2009.
In their recent meetings, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan have agreed to transform UAE-Pakistan relations into a long-term strategic economic partnership encompassing trade, investment, economic development, energy, infrastructure, and agriculture.
Pakistan offers vast opportunities for foreign direct investments and joint ventures in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural-based industries, insurance and real estate. Pakistani rice, herbal medicines, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables continue to find loyal customers in the UAE. Its fruits such as mangoes and oranges are highly sought after. The country needs to closely work with the UAE to increase export of fresh fruit, meat and vegetable through speed vessels from Karachi to Dubai to deliver these perishable items within 48 hours, reducing the current sailing time of up to eight days. Now that Pakistan has overcome its energy crisis, it can grow its exports in textiles and leather clothing. Then, Expo 2020 in Dubai offers a great opportunity for Pakistani businesses, especially textile exporters, for establishing B2B contacts with businessmen of 180 different countries. There are bright opportunities, immense possibilities and a huge potential for setting up joint ventures in various sectors as well. The trade volume between the two countries can grow manifold.
The UAE and Pakistan have a lot to achieve jointly. Amazing results wait in the wings if they act together.
- Waqar Mustafa is a multimedia journalist and commentator based in Lahore, Pakistan