ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Tuesday hailed United Arab Emirates’ decision to roll over $2 billion loan as proof of strong bilateral ties.

“The UAE’s decision to roll over the USD 2 billion deposit by the Abu Dhabi Fund … is yet another manifestation of the close cooperative relations between the two countries,” FO spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said in a statement.

He was commenting on the announcement made by UAE government regarding the $2bn loan during Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s three-day visit to the Emirates.

The FO had earlier said that Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan during his meeting with Mr Qureshi on Monday evening conveyed the “decision to roll over the USD 2 billion deposit by the Abu Dhabi Fund”.

FM Abdullah, the FO said, affirmed the UAE’s commitment to extend every possible support to Pakistan.

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development had in 2019 deposited a total of $3bn in the State Bank to help Pakistan augment its then dwindling foreign exchange reserves and avoid default on external debt obligations. The $2bn deposit matured on April 19, whereas the other $1bn facility has already been rolled over by the UAE in January.

Mr Qureshi told his Emirati counterpart that the decision “reflected the warm and brotherly ties between the two countries”.

The foreign ministers of Pakistan and UAE had in their meeting reviewed bilateral relations and discussed ways to enhance cooperation in diverse areas, including trade, investment, infrastructure, energy, technology, tourism and manpower.

Islamabad has, meanwhile, been upset with Abu Dhabi’s decision to impose visas restriction on Pakistani nationals.

The UAE had in November last year banned work visa for Pakistani nationals. Although the ban was imposed along with similar restrictions on a number of Muslim countries, Pakistan that heavily relies on remittances from the Emirates was particularly affected.

The restrictions were attributed to Covid-19 pandemic, but many believe that the move was based on security considerations in the aftermath of important geo-political developments that happened towards the end of the last year.

There were also reports of Pakistanis expatriates facing difficulties in the renewal of their work permits and other instances of discrimination. Some Pakistanis were picked up by Emirati security agencies.

About 1.6 million strong Pakistani diaspora lives in the UAE.

The FO said the foreign minister in his conversation with Mr Abdullah emphasised the need for “nurturing and strengthening people-to-people linkages, as well as removing impediments that hamper travel between the two countries”.

Mr Qureshi, after his meeting with Mr Abdullah, tweeted that they discussed efforts for peace and stability in South Asia.

The UAE has claimed credit for facilitating secret Pakistan-India contacts earlier this year that led to the resumption of ceasefire along the Line of Control.

The foreign minister described his meeting with his Emirati counterpart as “productive”.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2021

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