Pakistan-UAE strategic partnership will continue

Muzaffar Rizvi
Filed on March 23, 2021
Afzaal Mahmood, Ambassador of Pakistan

Top leadership-level visits in recent years have set the stage for closer interaction and extensive cooperation between Pakistan and the UAE

Pakistan greatly values its relations with the UAE and back-to-back leadership level visits in recent years have set the stage for closer interaction and extensive cooperation, its top diplomat says.

Afzaal Mahmood, Ambassador of Pakistan to the UAE, said the visit of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to the UAE in December 2020 was a follow-up of the high-level contacts.

"A long-term strategic partnership is expected to continue to grow in the mutual interest of our two nations. On my part, I would try my best to nurture and diversify our brotherly ties by focusing on trade, investment and people-to-people contacts," Mahmood, who recently assumed his responsibilities in Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times during an interview. 

A career diplomat

Mahmood,  a senior diplomat previously serving as Pakistan Ambassador in Bahrain, has graduated in Economics. He speaks Turkish and Indonesian languages, in addition to Urdu, English and Punjabi.

Shedding light on strong bilateral relations with the UAE, the Ambassador said both countries will further strengthen these relationships in the coming years.

"Pakistan greatly values its relations with the UAE, which are based on mutual trust and cooperation in multiple fields, including political, economic, cultural and defence. Back-to-back leadership level visits in recent years have provided an impetus to our bilateral ties and set the stage for closer interaction and extensive cooperation," the Ambassador said.

Defence, space cooperation

Mahmood said Pakistan and the UAE have a long history of cooperation in diverse fields, including defence. "We can always examine and explore the possibility of cooperation in space technology," he said.

To a question, he said Pakistan-UAE bilateral ties remain strong irrespective of regional and international developments.

"The two consult each other frequently and cooperate bilaterally as well at the regional and international fora on the issues of mutual interest. Recently, Pakistan participated in the International Defence Exhibition (Idex) and Naval Defence and Maritime Security Exhibition (Navdex) in Abu Dhabi in a big way," the Ambassador said.

In reply to a question about exchange of top level delegations, he said it's a regular process and will continue in the future as well.

"We had leadership level visits in the recent past and would continue to work towards strengthening high level as well as people-to-people contacts," he said.  

Bilateral trade potential

Mahmood said bilateral trade has a lot of growth potential and both the nations will explore more opportunities to expand commercial ties between the two countries.

"The trade between Pakistan and the UAE has steadily grown in the recent years to reach the level of $7.5 billion. Our two economies complement each other, therefore, I see a lot of potential of growth in our bilateral trade in the days ahead. Food, textiles, building materials, auto parts, leather and surgical goods have greater potential for enhanced trade between Pakistan and the UAE," the Ambassador said.

Elaborating the sectors to expand bilateral commercial ties, he said agriculture and food processing, textiles, fashion industry, art and culture, telecommunications, banking, IT (digitalisation and smart technology), tourism, higher education, medicine, pharmaceutical, oil and gas and petrochemicals are the main areas of interest for joint venture and FDI between the two countries.

"The whole gamut of our bilateral relations was reviewed in the last session of Joint Ministerial Commission. Both sides are ready to hold the next session, which would take place in Abu Dhabi as the last was held at Islamabad. We are waiting for the Covid-19 situation to ease," he said. 

In reply to a question about the free trade agreement with the UAE and GCC, he said Pakistan is ready to make use of every platform to strengthen trade and investment cooperation with the UAE.

Remittances to grow

The Ambassador said Pakistan greatly values the contribution of its nationals who always bring pride to the nation.

"Remittances from non-resident Pakistanis have been on the rise for the past few months. Pakistanis in the Gulf region in particular have contributed a lot to the economic development of our country," he said.

State Bank of Pakistan's latest data shows that workers' remittances amounted to $18.7 billion during July-Februray 2021, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 24.1 per cent.

Analysts said the country may receive record remittances of up to $28 billion if the similar upward growth trend continues in the second half of the fiscal year ending on June 30. Pakistan received $23 billion in remittances during financial year 2019-20.

"Roshan Digital Account, introduced by the Government for the benefit of Pakistanis is one of the factors contributing to increase in home remittances. We encourage our nationals to use banking channels for sending money back home," Mahmood said. 

New initiatives as ambassador

Mahmood said he is committed to serving the Pakistani community in the UAE and it is on the top of his agenda being an ambassador.

"Facilitation of consular services to Pakistanis through easy access, support to the Pakistani business community with the objective of strengthening trade and investment with the UAE and development of joint tourism," he said, adding, "I strongly believe that the ambassadors before me put in their best efforts to help and support Pakistanis in the UAE. I will continue to work towards improving our services to the community."

"We act as a bridge between the UAE and our community to explore local job markets for our nationals. We are working with Islamabad towards developing skills of our workers to enable them to face new challenges," the Ambassador concluded.



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