Saudi-UAE alliance: Where is it headed?

June 12, 2018
Saudi-UAE alliance: Where is it headed?
Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

MY first visit to the United Arab Emirates was in the early 1990s to attend a training course organized by the Saudi National Commercial Bank in Jabel Ali. We landed at the old Dubai airport, so I couldn’t see the new terminal, which is famous for its free tax zone.

The road to Jebel Ali passed through Sharjah and I did not have the opportunity to visit Dubai. It had to wait till after my graduation in the United States, seven years later.

In the decade I missed, the UAE witnessed dramatic development. I keenly followed the global interest in investment, employment and tourism opportunities in the rising UAE. When I visited the country the second time, I made sure to go through the new airport, and visit Dubai harbor, markets and towers. My last visit was to Abu Dhabi, less than a year, ago. I can’t wait to go back again!

With each visit, my surprises grew wilder. The UAE, like the Gulf nymphs, grows up every day, matures every morning, and celebrates every night. I had a lasting feeling that the greatest surprise is yet to come, as there is no end to Emiratis’ dreams and ambitions. Their country has an infinite workshop, bringing together the finest creators, thinkers and dreamers.

I have wondered, like many others, why don’t we have such grand vision and project? Why can’t we open up to creative and brilliant mega investors? And what prevents us from sharing the UAE’s experiences and working together for a coordinated vision and an integrated project?

In just three years, our young Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, in collaboration with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, has been able, with his ambitious vision of 2030, to place the UAE at the top list of allies and partners in developing new Saudi Arabia.

Work began on this strategic alliance in 2016, with dozens of ministers, officials and experts. They held hundreds of meetings and workshops with minimum media coverage. The goals were precise and clear. However, the mechanisms were many and complex, the aspirations were huge and far-reaching.

Today, the results of this great effort are in —a strategic alliance, supervised by a council chaired by our Crown Prince and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The board has 16 ministers, and is governed by a precise mechanism employing scientific methods to monitor and measure performance. Forty-four investment projects were announced to be accomplished within 60 months. The five-year roadmap encourages the private and public sectors to continue their march, leading to more integration and achievements.

The organizational structure was declared with the objective of accelerating joint co-operation on the implementation of targeted projects and programs.

The Saudi-Emirati Coordination Council’s vision aims to promote the two countries’ global stature in areas of economy, human development, and political, security and military integration, as well as, ensuring welfare and happiness for their people.

“We have a historic opportunity to create an exceptional Arab model of cooperation. Our solidarity and unity protect our interest, strengthen our economies and build a better future for our peoples,” Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed said at the end of the first council’s meeting in Jeddah last week.

“We are the two largest Arab economies, forming the two most modern armed forces. The economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE represent a gross domestic product of one trillion dollars, our joint exports rank fourth globally and amount to $750 billion, plus AED150 billion annually invested in infrastructure projects, which generate huge opportunities for bilateral cooperation,” he added.

Cooperation between the two big countries is not new. They are among the founders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Peninsula Shield Forces, the Arab alliance supporting the legitimate government of Yemen, the Islamic Alliance for Combating Terrorism and the international alliance fighting Daesh. Their stands are coordinated in the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Organization and the World Trade Organization.

Both nations fight shoulder to shoulder against terrorism and its sponsors. They stand with the US-led alliance facing Iran’s irresponsible behavior in the Middle East and elsewhere. They work on the same international project to fight extremism, sectarianism and terrorist organizations.

In the past, Arabs had long history of failed unification projects due to hastiness and lack of good preparation. Here is a good model to be followed. We went meticulously building a strong base for solid, functioning and lasting castle. No fanfare, no fiery speeches, no extravagant celebrations, but solid results of great vision and hard work. Hope others would learn and follow. Ameen.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi

June 12, 2018
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