Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan paid a quick official visit to Islamabad on Sunday ─ his first in nearly 12 years ─ and met the prime minister and other top officials as both countries seek to capitalise on the fresh momentum in ties due to a flurry of recent contacts at the leadership level.
Pakistani and United Arab Emirates leadership have met thrice now in three months. Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the UAE twice after assuming office in August to seek economic assistance. Both countries last week finalised the terms and conditions of a $6.2 billion support package for Islamabad to help address its balance-of-payments crisis.
A joint statement issued after the UAE royal's visit said Prime Minister Khan thanked the crown prince for the "generous" balance-of-payments support of $3 billion, which appears to have materialised first out of the total financial package.
Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, who last visited Pakistan in 2007, was given a red carpet welcome and a 21-gun salute when he touched down at Nur Khan airbase around noon today amid much fanfare in the capital. The royal was in Pakistan on a private hunting trip in Rahim Yar Khan for the last two days, and concluded his personal trip with a state visit to Islamabad.
Billboards displaying the crown prince's face and positive messages about Pak-UAE ties were put up across the city to welcome the visiting dignitary. A troupe of folk musicians and cultural dancers also put on a small show to receive him.
Prime Minister Imran Khan hugged the crown prince as he stepped off the plane and then, setting aside protocol, drove him personally to PM House where a welcome ceremony was held in his honour.
At PM House, a guard of honour was presented by a contingent of the armed forces to the visiting dignitary, who reviewed the parade. The national anthems of both countries were played, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was given a fly-past by an impressive formation of JF-17 fighter jets.
The crown prince also met members of the premier's cabinet at the ceremony, including Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan, Planning and Development Minister Khusro Bakhtiar, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi, and Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari.
Soon after his arrival, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed held a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Khan.
Following that, the visitors held delegation-level talks with the Pakistan side. Premier Khan led the Pakistani delegation comprising Qureshi, Umar, Chaudhry, Afridi and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, while Sheikh Mohammed led the UAE side.
According to the joint statement, the two leaders held wide-ranging talks that focussed on all areas of bilateral relations.
"Taking note of the positive trajectory of relations, the two leaders expressed their determination to further strengthen this historic and mutually beneficial relationship," the statement said.
While thanking the crown prince for the $3 billion financial support, the prime minister said it was reflective of the UAE's "continued commitment and friendship that has remained steadfast over the years". He also welcomed the Emirates' interest in investing in various sectors in Pakistan including oil and gas, logistics, ports and construction.
The two sides also discussed issues of regional and global importance, with Khan briefing the crown prince on the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir and the plight of the Kashmiri people.
The two leaders decided to form a task force for taking all necessary measures to deal with matters relating to trade enhancement.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Khan and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed noted that the Pakistan-UAE Joint Ministerial Commission, to be co-chaired by the two countries' foreign ministers in Abu Dhabi next month, could "play a pivotal role in chalking out a comprehensive roadmap, and in fast-tracking the approval of pending agreements and memorandum of understandings (MoUs)".
The two leaders expressed their satisfaction with the ongoing defence and security cooperation between the two countries and resolved to explore further collaboration in the areas of training, joint exercises and defence production.
The crown prince in his comments recognised the "efforts and unparalleled sacrifices" made by Pakistan to eliminate terrorism and extremism.
Khan thanked the UAE leadership and people for their commitment to the socioeconomic development of Pakistan in the form of the 'Pakistan Assistance Programme', as well as for Sheikh Mohammed's support to eradicate polio from Pakistan.
In order to counter white collar crimes including money laundering, the two leaders directed the relevant authorities to expedite the finalisation of the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement.
Prime Minister Khan briefed the UAE royal about Pakistan's efforts to support and facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process. The two leaders agreed to work closely for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
"The visit underscored the strength and substance of the Pakistan-UAE special relationship, which is based on the spirit of mutual affection and deep trust," the joint statement said, adding that building on this legacy, the two leaders resolved to work for the progress and stability of both Pakistan and the UAE.
The crown prince thanked the premier for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to him and his delegation during the visit to Islamabad.
He left for the UAE at around 3pm after the whirlwind back-to-back meetings. Before his departure, the foreign dignitary was presented a photo album depicting his engagements during the brief visit.
What the support package means
The new support package from the UAE is the same size and has the same terms and conditions as those given by Saudi Arabia, according to a cabinet member who earlier spoke to Dawn regarding the development.
With the new package, Pakistan will save a total of about $7.9bn on oil and gas imports from the two friendly countries, accounting for over 60pc of the annual oil import bill amounting to roughly $12-13bn.
This includes about $3.2bn each of oil supplies on deferred payments from the UAE and Saudi Arabia and about $1.5bn trade finance from the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC).
The total financing support from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, including the ITFC’s trade finance, is to be around $13.9-14bn when cash deposits of $3bn each from the two countries are also included, according to the cabinet member.
Additionally, a deep-conversion oil refinery is to be set up by Parco — a joint venture of Pakistan and Abu Dhabi — worth $5-6bn at Khalifa Point and an expected petro-chemical complex by Saudi Arabia at Gwadar Oil City.