By Yawar Shah
India is on diplomatic and trade offensive in the Middle East, isolating Pakistan. Pakistan which had excellent historic relations with the GCC countries, especially the UAE, took a beating when our government ‘mishandled’ Yemen crisis. If we did not want to join, that was fine. It should have been handled with great sensitivity and diplomacy at the highest level. Instead, PM Nawaz Sharif sent the matter to the parliament for debate, which was disastrous. All norms of parliamentary etiquette and protocol were abandoned, as parliamentarians got into a slugfest using vulgar and abusive language. That shocked other countries. UAE had always been close to Pakistan, after 2005 earthquake, UAE provided over $1 billion dollar worth of urgently needed relief goods and rebuilt roads, houses, hospitals and schools.
India seized this opportunity to strengthen its diplomatic and trade ties with the UAE. Immediately, the UAE Cabinet allowed Indians to enjoy a simplified 14-day visa on arrival, and decided to advance UAE-India relations in politics, trade and defence. PM Modi has set an ambitious US $100 billion India-UAE trade target by 2020. (Finance Minister Ishaq Dar could only dream of such trade. What has he done to increase Pakistan-UAE trade volume?). India is welcoming UAE companies to invest in India. Already operating in India are Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (ADNEC), Emaar Development and Dubai Ports World (DPP), which has been given contract to operate six major ports in India.
The number of Indian tourists visiting UAE last year had reached 1.6 million, now with visa made easier this number will dramatically increase. The UAE government has also decided to increase the number of Indians workers and reduce Pakistani workers. There are now over 143 flights a day between India and UAE, that’s over 1000 flights per week. Where is PIA? Where is our government? What is our embassy in UAE doing? Nothing. We demand ‘accountability’ of our government, not just for corruption but also lack of governance and failed policies. With fast changing regional geopolitics, we are being isolated by PM Modi’s offensive and our own diplomatic blunders. Pakistan is missing a historic opportunity to be the leader for regional and world peace.