Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

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

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince meets Prime Minister Imran Khan on his day-long visit

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. Ministry of Presidential Affairs ) ---
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed meets Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad. Ministry of Presidential Affairs ) ---

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, arrived in Pakistan on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The trip marked the first official foreign visit by Sheikh Mohamed, also Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, in 2020.

Nearly a year after last visited the country on January 6, 2019, Sheikh Mohamed arrived in Islamabad and met Mr Khan to discuss ways to further bilateral relations.

He 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, and exchanged views on regional and international issues of common concern, the state news agency Wam reported.

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, he directed the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development to allocate $200 million (Dh734.5m) 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 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 organisation seeks to be the collective voice of the Muslim world and protect the interests of Muslims through peace and co-operation.

Mr Khan welcomed Sheikh Mohamed 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 spoke of the pivotal role he played in supporting development and peace, regionally and internationally.

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

Ghulam Dastgir, Pakistan's ambassador to the UAE, said the Crown Prince's two visits within 13 months showed the Emirates' close relationship with South Asian country.

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

"The visit is important. It will help to promote trade and investment relations in important areas like defence, education and health."

He said the UAE's economic partnership with Pakistan would probably strengthen "in the near future".

Mr Dastgir said the petroleum sector, infrastructure development and the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor were top potential areas for UAE investment in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan had the potential and the UAE had the "capacity" to invest in these sectors, and in Gwadar, a port city on the south-western 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. But Mr Dastgir said his country was open to more partnerships.

He said tourism was another sector that could provide a "win-win situation" for both countries.

"We have a large community here," Mr Dastgir told Wam. "Our people are contributing in the development and progress of this country, and it is appreciated by the UAE government.

"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."

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 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 two sitting in the front seat of the car as it arrived at the house.

The party said Sheikh Mohamed's visit would "contribute to further enhancement of multi-faced collaboration between Pakistan and the UAE".

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said both countries clearly viewed their fraternal ties as being of 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 co-operation to a new level," the ministry 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 coincided with the week that a Pakistani naval ship is due to make a good will visit to Dubai.

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

In December, Sheikh Mohamed met 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 protect security and develop co-operation.

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

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

Updated: January 3, 2020 09:21 AM

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