New Delhi, Feb 1, 2021-
Dubai’s deputy chief of police and public security, Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan has once again raised Pakistani heckles. A couple of days back, Khalfan tweeted whether the Baloch people in Pakistan should be given missiles to defend themselves.
Khalfan’s tweet raised a kerfuffle among the Twitterati. Of the 41,861 votes polled on the Dubai police chief’s tweet, 39 per cent said yes while a majority 61 per cent disagreed with him.
One of the main reactions on his tweet came from Sobdar Baloch, journalist and human rights activist, associated with the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM). He wrote back to Khalfan: “I agree 100% that our Arab friends must fully support #FreeBalochistanmovement, provide all necessary help and recognition…”
In 2018 also, Khalfan had hit out against Pakistan, saying: “Pakistanis pose a serious threat to the Gulf societies for the drugs they bring with them… There must be very strict measures against them at the outlets…” A few minutes later, he again tweeted: “Why are Indians disciplined? While idleness, criminality and smuggling in the Pakistani community are rampant.”
Khalfan is often perceived to be politically incorrect and very much in-your-face.
However, he is a good barometer for judging how people perceive Pakistan in the UAE. Currently, Pakistanis are not welcome in the Arab country owing to the strategic winds blowing in West Asia. With the signing of the Abraham accords, the UAE has moved closer to Israel and much travel is happening between the nationals of the two countries.
Soon after the historic rapprochement between the UAE and Israel in August, the Arab nation stopped issuing new visas to the citizens of 13 countries, including Pakistan in November 2020. The reason was guided by intelligence inputs that highlighted threat perception to Israelis visiting the UAE. Publicly UAE is maintaining that it is
streamlining procedures to effectively screen applicants from these countries.
Months later, that ban has still not been lifted against Pakistani nationals while Israel has been given the permission to open an embassy in the UAE.
The Imran Khan government in Pakistan is under pressure from its nationals over the suspension of visas. In fact Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s visit to the UAE in December 2020 did not help resolve matters. He took up the issue in the UAE but was told that visa restrictions were due to the Covid-19 outbreak and were temporary. But the restrictions on Pakistani nationals visiting the UAE remain in place.
On the other hand, India and UAE relations continue to grow. Just a few days back Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to discuss boosting trade and investment in a post-Covid world. “They agreed to continue close consultations and cooperation to further strengthen the India-UAE partnership in the post-Covid-19 world. In this context, they discussed the opportunities for further diversifying trade and investment links,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement.
It is not just trade ties. The relations between the UAE and India includes defence ties and people-to-people contacts. The UAE had recently provided mid-air refuelling to three Rafale aircraft on their way from France to India. In December 2020, Indian Army chief M.M. Naravane became the first chief of the defence forces to visit the UAE.
There are an estimated 3,5 million Indians working in UAE alone, contributing enormously to the land of their choosing while sending large amounts of foreign currency home.
On India’s 72nd Republic Day, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, highlighted the Indian Tricolour on the iconic building. In a tweet, the @burjKhalifa handle said: “#BurjKhalifa commemorates India’s Republic Day, honouring the date in which the Constitution of India came into effect in 1950.” It posted the tweet in Hindi, highlighting how mutual relations between the two countries continue to flourish at multiple levels. (Agency)